Being different is really hard.
Motivational speakers and entrepreneurs may tell us to be different, but when push comes to shove, standing out hurts.
It is far, far easier to blend in, do what one is told, and try to smother the fire within us.
But this last one is not easy in the long run. Nothing that comes from deep within us, and is ignored, is ever easy when it comes roaring out demanding that we pay attention.
We can try to suppress our inner voice, but as nature will have it, and she wins every time, our voice comes yelling out to be heard. If we don’t listen, we are effectively going against who we are. We are trying to create a fake self, something that exists only as a shell but not a living, breathing person that evolves and influences all those around them.
Suppression of our true nature has a very long history, and apparently, thousands of years. There is a deep, hard-wired urge within us to conform. We want to please members of the group, gain their approval and feel safe. But… when we do this as highly creative people, we are like a tortoise that never comes out of its shell, and by staying deeply nestled within its safe casing, it never puts its mark on the world.
According to Gordon Torr, a former Creative Director and author of Managing Creative People, these creatives have an awareness of who they are, combined with a determination to share their weirdness. Rather than do what everyone else is doing, these creatives feel compelled to express who they are and to share their natural ability with others, condemned or embraced.
“for almost the entire duration of human life on earth, the popular conception of creative people was that they were born that way, with unique gifts that obliged them to seek out and fulfil the singular vocations of their destiny…
They were shamans, priests, prophets, storytellers, poets, witches, troubadours, jesters, Giottos, da Vincis, romantics, lunatics, misfits, outsiders, strangers, village idiots, inventors, novelists, artists and, eventually, advertising people. They were vilified as often as they were revered, and reviled as much as they were respected.”
(Gordon Torr, Managing Creative People, 2008)
Torr notes how creative people saw it as their destiny to share their gifts. It wasn’t a choice, or something they could indulge in when they had nothing better to do. No, they made it their earthly pursuit. They were here to share their unique insights and if others saw them as weird, pfft, it just hardened their resolve. Rejection and acceptance were mere trivialities. They were on a mission to share their ideas, no matter how strange or unique to the times.
These historical creatives didn’t have smooth transitions, and for some, the path was littered with far more than rocks and boulders. They even had to contend with avalanches of criticism and obstacles, and some didn’t even achieve recognition until well after their deaths.
But whatever their fate, what each creative revealed was their weirdness in every sense of the word. They couldn’t hide it.
Here is a brief overview of each creative as identified by Torr.
These enlightened healers of the Siberian/Mongolian tradition possess the keenest sense of connection to the natural and spiritual world. As elders who have a deep understanding of their culture and history, shamans express their insights through language, song, artwork and dance. Their central role is to alleviate human suffering by restoring balance and wholeness to the soul of the body, thus creating wellness to the physical and emotional body.
Shamans can be found in all human cultures, dating as far back as the earliest tribal societies.
These inspired teachers serve as earthly conduits of the divine. They share prophetic insights into the future of humanity and how to create a better world for all. The prophet’s central role is to promote change and help people follow the moral and social conventions as outlined by divine or by natural sources.
Like Shamans, prophets can be found informing their communities about good and evil within every realm of life. They are like society’s moral compass. Without these weirdos, we’re like a freight-train heading towards annihilation.
The penultimate purveyors of meaning, storytellers illustrate what it is to be human – how we love, suffer and endure despite all the trials and tribulations of being human. The storyteller will use a variety of modes to share their insights, from oral storytelling, comics, films, novels and stage performances. The storyteller’s central role is to create a compelling narrative that engages our highest values.
From the very beginning of human civilisation, storytellers have shared their imaginations to help us connect to one another.
Seer-healers who were more often revered than reviled, articulated their connection to the divine by providing contact between the mundane and spiritual world. These witches possessed an in-depth knowledge of healing practices that enabled them to play a central role in fertility and prosperity within the community.
The label “witch” is highly dependent on the worldview of who is using the word, and for this reason, those that identify as a witch in the modern day are as creative as the next witch.
These comedic minstrels created cheer wherever they went, or whomever called upon their services. Through their high sense of drama, song and storytelling, jesters provided endless amusement to onlookers. The jester’s central role is to amuse us, creating a carnival atmosphere to everyday life.
Originating from the medieval and renaissance eras, jesters today create laughter and amusement wherever they grace others with their presence.
Die-hard lovers of self-expression and honouring your natural inclinations, these romantics expressed the heart of the human condition through art, poetry, song, and every other area that make life meaningful. The central role of the romantic is to reveal humanity’s connection to nature and our past, glorifying all that is beautiful and sublime.
Romantics pervade our entire culture today, and can even be seen in the advice provided by self-proclaimed real-world entrepreneurs that urge us to live a life filled with meaning.
Originally used to describe the sleep-walking behaviour of people who were affected by the Moon’s lunar cycle, the term lunatic began to be applied to anyone who engaged in mania-type behaviour, such as falling into fits of convulsion or behaving in an eccentric manner. The central role of the lunatic was often complex, but could reflect the contradictions and silences of a society that mostly tries to convey an air of forced conformity.
Lunatics, or “crazy” people, are often labels applied to those who are deemed to have lost their sanity. It can also be used to describe those individuals who have created for themselves a way of living that is very different, and perhaps uncomfortable for those around them.
The perpetual seeker and maker of meaning and purpose, the misfit rebels against anything that reeks of conformity. Their experiential nature compels them to seek experiences that provide the source for their creative works. The central role of the misfit is to reveal what is beautiful, dark and mysterious in life.
Misfits can be found in all cultures and in every era – they are society’s canary in the gold mine – without them, life would be meaningless.
These gauche country bumpkins delight in their idiosyncratic behaviour, often making others laugh for their apparently foolish behaviour. The central role of the village idiot is to highlight the madness and humour of everyday society.
We can find village idiots within all societies, and for many, they represent living without fakery.
Candid observers of the status-quo who see things differently, and perhaps clearly, when outside of the middle. On the margins of society, these outsiders question the rules and pave their own way. The central role of the outsider is to provide perceptive insights about the human condition – why we do what we do.
Outsiders are as old as human history and reveal the ever-present will of individuals to express their natural inclinations, and how the status-quo doesn’t work for everyone.
Persistent thinkers who work at a problem or idea like a ferret digging a hole. Combining both science and art, inventors create what they envision in the world. The inventors central role is to bring into fruition new ideas that shape and change the world.
These imaginative researchers have propelled humanity to the greatest insights and discoveries, making the impossible possible.
Highly perceptive, and with a keen eye for detail, artists illustrate the depth and breadth of the human condition. Their central role, as painters, sculptors, crafters, writers, designers, etc. is to give shape and purpose to humanity’s experiences.
Seeing the world as it is and how they would like it to be, artists highlight the myriad of ways of looking and being in the world.
Lovers of creating original, entertaining and remarkable content, marketers, write, design or use any other creative tool to influence and inspire their community. The central role of the marketer is to capture the attention of the world through revealing the value of what people and experiences have to offer.
Marketers specialise in influencing the experience and behaviour of individuals through providing meaningful connections.
Here is a direct link to a poster with each of these creatives for you to print out and remind you of who you are.
What this exploration of creatives reveals is how you, as a highly creative weirdo, need to embrace what makes you different and share that uniqueness with the world. It won’t be easy, but nothing meaningful and soul-fulfilling ever is.
Rather than live life as the empty shell of a human being (not desirable), your task in life is to express your natural abilities regardless of the outcome. The outcome is uncertain, but the uncertainty that you need to face enables the creative freedom you need to create something remarkable.
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