Why You Secretly Want To Fail (Or Why Sharing Your Creativity is Like the Dream Where You’re Naked)

Unless you’re blissfully fortunate or completely unaware of everyone around you; most feel a compulsion to hide their creativity at one point or another. I don’t know why I intuitively felt a need to hide my Cabbage Patch doll notebook with a story about a boy I liked in the 4th grade. I just knew I should. That people might make fun of me. That like any good brothers, mine would ridicule me.

I eventually moved onto diaries, which probably got their locks busted open and read at some point by one of my older brothers. As I grew older, I wrote rather poetically, and while my teachers usually complimented it, they kept giving me lower grades than expected. I wasn’t writing crisp enough. There weren’t enough solid facts. I couldn’t quite convey the regurgitated lesson the assignment required.

So when I sighed and let go of the poetic voice to emulate the voice they wanted; I got A’s. But I also got an occasional apology that I had to lose the creative voice I had while doing it. So I eventually earned my GED diploma (I passed with Honors!) and went on developing my creativity..

I had moderate successes with my writing at an early age, but I found that as soon as the high of landing a project subsided; I felt vulnerable and raw. It was like sharing a leaf of my diary with someone. Showing them my most innermost thoughts and saying, “I think my writing is so good you should read it.” So then what? What if they read it and thought it sucked? That it was lame and I thought far more of my writing talents than were warranted? In the end, it just left me with writer’s block, uncertainty, and an inability to really deliver on my creativity.

Over the years, I’ve worked with graphic designers and video editors who held back the very support beams of their personalities from showing through in their work. They just infused technique. No voice. No real story. And I was one of them. I was afraid to take too many risks with my video work. I wanted the client to be pleased. And because I worked on commercials, I wanted their products to get sold. Often the client made me water it down far beyond what I ever felt comfortable doing.

Soon the commercial was nothing but “See and Say”. See the picture, now put the voice over telling what that picture is. Yes. There are very talented advertising execs out there. But there are just as many who think the consumer is too stupid to understand what they’re selling and dumb it all so far down it might as well be a low-budget car lot commercial on at 2 a.m.. Or they assume consumers have the same sense of moronic humor the exec has. And subsequently not understand why the commercial is so widely panned. I could go on for years about this unfortunate and very real phenomenon if you have the time…

So what did I want? I wanted to blend frames and bend dissolves. Carve out a jump cut to a clever juxtaposition. Dig into the moments of the footage where they accidentally shot the actor being a little to edgy. Or a little too vulnerable. But it never quite worked. Soon I drank enough corporate juice that I knew what they wanted and how they wanted it. I still kept some of my voice, but it was more like a whisper than a roar.

The editors who soared at their work had real grit. Callouses on their fingertips. A steel exterior that engulfed their focus in a protective armor. They were fierce. They knew how to push buttons and make footage into something it was never intended to be. There was a story, a mission, a flavor you couldn’t deny. And it was epic. Yet somehow they could still blend in the product. They understood creativity in business is still business. And sometimes they had to yield more creative control than desired, but it didn’t crush their spirit. And if it did, they never let it show.

The editors who held back were shadowy figures that flitted from AVID to the machine room. They punched the buttons and knew how to piece together footage without needing to think much about it. Their best work was usually done as a favor, or pro-bono. Or while they were drunk. They could only truly be vulnerable when they didn’t feel the pressure of compensation or sobriety.

When stone cold sober and paid, they just wanted to play it safe. They wanted the client to tell them precisely how to approach each and every piece to the creative puzzle. Until they were nothing but assemblers instead of architects. They were afraid. And they usually failed. They never advanced or got promoted. Never worked on very interesting projects. And wondered why they were so disgruntled with their work.

But maybe they just wanted to fail.

Like I did at one point. I just wanted it to all get swept away in an earth-shattering tsunami so it would all be wiped clean and I could start anew. No one would know my words or the videos I created. I couldn’t deal. I didn’t want the vulnerability that came with creativity. I wanted to feel safe. I wanted to fail. Only it was like waking up inside a dream. And you realize you’re naked and exposed and in that lapse between dreaming and wakefulness.

Only everyone is looking at your art and creativity instead of your nudity. And they’re mocking you. You just want to wake up and shake free from that kind of intimate exposure. Creatives have an interesting dilemma. We’re typically more depressed than our non-creative counterparts.

Because if we bare all in our work, and our work is rejected, then we feel rejected as a whole person. We think we are our work.

It’s devastating to feel we’ve bared all only to find out it’s ripped to shreds. If your spreadsheet gets ripped to shreds on a financial project, you’re more likely to be aggravated by the time lost and tender bruise to your ego than feeling it’s literally a piece of you. Personified. Like so many of us, those editors were afraid to show their real vulnerability; their real creativity. I was sharing a few emails with Corbett Bar at Think Traffic about this subject.

That while creative strategies and resources would be a part of my site, my gut tells me really showing myself and being vulnerable will be key. He reminded me to have a purpose behind being vulnerable; and I see that purpose as sharing a personal journey while showing other people how to be creative. And not to hide behind the veil. I use to hide. I use to downplay how many careers I’ve had to anyone but my closest friends.

I could reinvent myself based on who I was talking to and what I thought they would respect the most: Video Editor, Segment Writer, Online Copywriter, Animated Educational Segment Writer, Travel Writer, Outdoors Writer, Multimedia Director for a Broadway marketing firm. But I use to worry over the amount of titles I’ve worn. Fretted over the details with those meddling in my life. Of those whose opinions mattered. And of those who didn’t.

But now I know it’s just me that matters. I made the veil, and now I don’t want to wear it. So here’s what’s underneath. I like creative work. I like diversity. I like change. I like connection. I like marketing. I like storytelling. And I love creative energy and strategy.

And I want it all. Is that too much to ask?

I don’t think it is. And neither should you. The fastest way to true creativity is to let down the veil. Just show who you are and what your experiences got you there. Otherwise you’ll spend all your time artfully keeping up the guise. And your true creative point-of-view will trickle away in an energy suck. Start with one defining experience that drastically impacted your life. Start there and let it splinter. Who are you? And what are you trying to say?

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