You’re 6 years old and you walk into the classroom wearing a cape, bandana on your head and snow boots. Your friends rush over to check you out—it’s a hit, you nailed the look. You confidently take your seat at the craft table and draw a dinosaur wearing a space helmet.
Fast-forward 10 years. You get on the bus wearing your finest torn jeans, a 311 shirt and shield a massive pimple on your chin. Someone yells, “311 sucks!” You look around, embarrassed, and mutter “No, you suck” as you slump into your bus seat.
Now you’re a working professional. You step out of your car wearing company-issued khakis and a freshly ironed gingham shirt. You take your place at a small but tidy desk and check your inbox. The guy in the next cubicle is wearing the same shirt. What are the chances? Pretty good.
The point here is that we all start life with a huge supply of weird. We have wild imaginations and no restrictions on what’s possible. As we grow older, we become self-conscious. Instead of standing out, we try our best to blend in. And our supply of weird is slowly depleted until we reach a stable level called “normal.” Your weird isn’t completely gone, but it becomes difficult to access. But there’s hope for you yet.
As a creative person, I’ve seen how this trend kills creativity. We often fall into the trap of tackling creative problems in the most boring and expected ways. The results are just as boring and expected. So how do you tap into your weird and approach your creative work (and maybe your life) from a fresh perspective? Here are a few ways:
1) Your first ideas are the worst ideas
Your brain keeps the boring stuff on the surface—you have to dig deeper for the gold. Try approaching the problem from the most absurd angles possible (e.g., dino in space helmet). Ask for outside perspectives or walk away from the problem for an hour, a day, a week. Most of my best ideas hit me when I’m not actually thinking about the project.
2) Fail hard and often
Doing great work requires big risks and a healthy amount of naivety. You learn nothing from playing it safe and doing the expected. Get into the practice of scaring yourself, change up your routine, try something new. All the great minds of our time have quirks that get them into the right mindset to create. Find yours.
3) Be yourself
You are the worst person in the world at not being yourself. Be confident in who you are and have an opinion. Understand your strengths and, more important, your weaknesses. It’s OK to lean on others who excel where you don’t—because guess what, at some point, they’ll need the same from you.
4) Pull from experience
What you lack in not being a 6-year-old, you make up for in life experience. Your travels, music tastes, hobbies and generally all the things you love in life combine to create your unique perspective. Don’t ignore it. Instead, use it to create something new and different—and repeat. Creative thinking takes practice.
Whether we’re talking about you or a brand, creativity is only creative if it truly stands out. If your brand is wearing the same shirt as the brand sitting next to you, it’s not a coincidence. It’s a sign that you’ve gotta find your weird.
Marshall Statt is a creative director and a total weirdo. It’s fine, he’s cool with it. Mostly because he doesn’t write this part of the blog post. I do. And I’m on a power trip.