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The danger of being a creative person


When I first starting teaching Graphic Design, in the '90s, I started to recognize the challenges of creative people. And I came to realize that a lot of these people thought so differently from the mainstream that they actually frightened other people.

I often say that we all start out creative. At four years old, no one needed to give any of us instructions on how to play with the blocks. We stacked them up every way that we could think of. I call that "reinventing the world the way that you would like it to be". Creative people become fascinated with possibilities, they become obsessed with trying something new. They get bored easily, and they reject structure. And ultimately the creative spirit can be crushed.

After all, we can't have everyone in the world be creative. We need productive people who accomplish things, work within systems, and just plain make the world work. Speaking for myself, I really don't want my Dentist to be too creative. I want him to be skillful, and competent. I want him to be educated, and knowledgable. I don't want him to see how interesting he can make my teeth look, maybe in unusual patterns, or colors. So don't me wrong, the world needs people who aren't all that creative, people who can follow directions, people who can be punctual, people with good social skills.

I was a corporate guy, but I worked in a department called "Creative Services", doing Graphic Design. And although I went out of my way to look, talk, act, and dress as corporate as anyone, I could tell that people were always a little nervous about me. They had heard about those creative types! They knew that Van Gogh had cut off his ear.

As a kid, I was lucky. As a nerdy little kid with messy hair and crooked glasses, I was never picked on. Maybe it was because I was so small and weak that I had a lot of big protectors. I still have people like that in my life, and they will fight for me, both figuratively and literally. I learned to keep my big protectors around me, both in school and in my corporate life. They protect me from the Destructives.

Kids can be mean. And so can adults. There are a lot of people who are frightened if they see someone who can draw, or play the guitar. And it brings out violence in these people, whom I call "Destructives" (as opposed to Creatives). I remember seeing someone scribble all over a drawing that I had done in 4th grade, I remember seeing John Belushi's character in "Animal House" take a guitar away from someone and smash it against the wall. And all of this is seen as funny.

I'm always on the lookout for Destructives. They're the people who will try to stop the Creatives. They're the first people to vandalize things, to try to spoil something. Usually the Destrutives win. But if you're a Creative, and you've made it this far, please allow me to offer my encouragement. Yeah, you're weird, and by just about every way of measuring you, you're crazy, but you make the world such a brighter place. Sing your song, do your drawing. The haters will hate, but don't let them stop you. Watch out for the Destructives, and stay well away from them. Find big protectors, they're out there. You're the most valuable treasure that the human race has, you're a glittering jewel in a pile of coal.

Hang in there.