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The Dark Side to Being Creative

It's Me

I'm often described with words like "odd," "weird," "strange," and "not normal." I guess they're not wrong. You might catch me bursting into laughter at times and places that seem wholly inappropriate, triggered by things I simply can't help but notice. Or you might find me staring into space at a conference, not daydreaming, but deeply engrossed in trying to determine how the row of light fixtures across the room are constructed, because the diameter of one light is just slightly larger than the others, and if there were two dozen or so pivot points on the light that would allow it to expand and contract to different sizes which would in turn adjust the lighting it provides. There are moments when my expression shifts so suddenly, it's as if I've been poked physically with a stick, all because some random idea hit me like a truck. At times, my mind races so swiftly that it feels like the world around me, including myself, is barely moving at all and I have to wait for it to catch up. Sometimes my mouth doesn't wait quite long enough.

Growing up, I accepted these quirks as 'normal.' But with time, I've come to understand that perhaps they're not. Yet, they are a part of me...most days.

I've spent a lifetime being "the creative guy," lending my skills to companies like Universal Pictures, LEGO, Microsoft, and Lucasfilm, and even earning the title of "Creative Expert" at Pepsi, which I loved. It's who I am, and I've learned to embrace it.

This post is deeply personal for me. It's about letting you know that if you've ever felt out of place for the way you see the world, you're not alone. It's important to embrace the "weird," the "strange," the "odd," the "abnormal." It's all part of the package.

The Myth of Creativity

What people think creative people life is like.
"I wish I was creative," is a sentiment I hear often, but I truly believe everyone has creativity within them. It's just that creativity manifests differently in each of us. But I also understand that there are many levels of "creativity". Sometimes when I hear someone make that statement I wonder if they think that us "creative people" spend all day drawing, writing poetry and painting mountain landscapes like Bob Ross. that I think about it, I do spend a lot of my time creating things and that is where I get a lot of enjoyment from. But trust me, it's not all "sunsets and happy trees". Being highly creative does have it's downsides. 

"You're Weird!"

While being labeled "weird" or "odd" can be a badge of honor for creative individuals, it can also be isolating in social circles. In high school being the "weird creative guy" didn't get me invited to a large number of parties. On the other hand, I was the first person they called when the football team needed a spirit banner for the upcoming pep rally and football game. I guess I'll take that as a "win".

I'm Not Good Enough

Self-doubt often follows failure, fueling fear that can silence even the most imaginative minds during brainstorming sessions. Years of working in the creative industry have proven that the number one way to not get invited to the next brainstorming to remain silent. Silence, driven by fear of judgment, can be the biggest barrier to creativity. Yet, the most groundbreaking ideas often start as "bad" ones, laughed over in meetings, only to spark something truly innovative.

Be Creative....NOW

Creative blocks are a harsh reality, too. Creativity isn't a constant; it ebbs and flows, and its absence can be devastating, especially when your identity is tied to being "the creative one."  While I'm usually not aware of what causes these dry spells, over the years I have determined that my creativity is closely linked to my mental health; distractions and depression can dry up my creativity, leaving me feeling lost, or even worthless...which is always a great feeling to grow when you're depressed.

Studies have shown that creative individuals are more prone to mental health issues, including depression, mood swings, and a lack of impulse control. These aren't traits that typically get celebrated, yet they're part of the creative package.

Don't Hate Me

Misunderstood creativity can lead to friction, especially when my instinct to question everything is seen as negativity. But my questioning is not about doubting; it's about anticipating and solving problems before they arise. If you presented a boat to cross a river and I spotted a hole in the boat, would you want me to mention it before we go in, or when we're in the middle of the river ankle deep in water? The risk of failure is inherent in creativity, especially when trying something new. But part of being creative is learning that failure isn't the end—it's a stepping stone towards future successes. 

In the End

Despite these challenges, I wouldn't change a thing. Our world is hurtling towards an unknown future, one that will require innovative thinking and the courage to embrace change. It's going to need plenty creative people. If any of this resonates with you—if you're "odd," "strange," or "weird"—know that your perspective is invaluable. Embrace it. The world needs you.

And so, I leave you with a quote often misattributed to Steve Jobs but actually penned by Rob Siltanen:

"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Embrace your uniqueness. The world awaits the change only you can bring.


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