I was recently at the 99% Conference in New York City, held by Behance, a company that grows creative people. (I almost expect to walk into their office and see little plants or incubators with people planted in them, getting watered and lit by the sun, stretching out and walking out into the conference room.) When I went to Behance’s home office more than a year ago, I was, for the first time, aware that there are other people in the world like me. People who work differently, who think in odd—often wildly chaotic—patterns, people who have a difficult time assimilating to regular work environments. I had often felt that as a creative—a writer and an artist—I would never really succeed in the real work world. Sitting at a desk from 9 to 5, quietly working away, attending meetings, making appointments, taking calls, etc.: it was (and still can be sometimes) like having my right hand tied behind my back and being expected to not only perform, but perform at a high level.
There isn’t a school that teaches creatives how to seek out opportunities that promote growth and development in their specific skill sets. There isn’t a guide to organizations that give members the latitude to ground themselves for doing their best work in the way they can. I am fortunate to already be in an organization that leads with possibility—and opportunity. In fact, that organization is the reason I landed at the 99% Conference.
One of the many challenges facing creatives in work environments is how to use their skills in a way that is successful for both themselves and the organization. It is one thing to be a creative and another to be a successful creative member of a team. The obstacle I have faced (and was happy to hear at this conference that others have faced as well) is hitting a brick wall while trying to meet the needs of my teammates and function at my highest level. It’s difficult to do both—an enormous amount of energy is expended trying to assimilate, complete tasks, and problem-solve in a shared accountability environment where you need to work with other members and their style of working. More often than not, the expenditure of that energy is depleting your creative center—not allowing your best work to come forward. Having the space to find and foster ways of successfully doing both requires a commitment from both you and your team.
Honoring your end of the commitment will mean compromise, which can be equally difficult. You can be a great artist, a great writer, a phenomenal idea person, but just “being” those things isn’t enough. We are living in a time of enormous change—technology is coming and changing by the second—”creatives” are taking over! And the competition for the “next greatest thing” is coming from a creative near you.
In order to make an impact, to be the change you want to see, you need to get organized. Organized in whatever way you can—and if you can’t by yourself, find someone who can organize you. Creativity alone can leave you as the tortured artist. Creativity + organization will yield impact and success.