Let me be clear; the idea that there is a whole tribe of people who are born to be and who find being creative easy is utter fucking bullshit – an apt thing to consider if your business requires creative energy to move it forward. Creative people, or at least a good deal of them, work hard at being creative. Let me explain further.
When I was ten years old, my school report (which I still have somewhere, FYI) reads something along the lines of, “James is remedial and as such should focus his efforts on woodwork or similar.” Woodwork! I’m so pleased over the following years I ignored that advice and spared joinery shops in North Cornwall from me ruining their precise and professional work flows. It was another 12 years until my university lecturer advised I should be tested for dyslexia. I explained to him I wasn’t dyslexic and I didn’t need a test, whilst he explained that as an aside from his day job he tested people for dyslexia and that I was dyslexic, and that the concessions that the university would offer me would make my life easier. I didn’t take him up on his offer as my Grandmother was terrified that if I was registered as dyslexic I’d never get a job. Now fast forward a further 20 years (I was eventually tested) and the pendulum has swung to the opposite position. I am now forever reading articles on the benefits of being dyslexic as if possessed a super power. What absolute horseshit (not all of it, some of it). Let me explain – and I’ll try and get a little less agitated and dial down my attitude a notch or two, promise.
Here are some of the benefits we often see lined up with dyslexia:
- Seeing and understanding the bigger picture
- Finding the odd one out, improved pattern recognition
- Strong spatial knowledge
- Visual thinking
- Sharper peripheral vision
- Being highly creative
- Entrepreneurial thinking
There are more, lots more, but you see where I’m going. These are not superpowers – and this is where society and, in particular, business owners and marketers are being served up article after article inferring that they are.
It’s great that that dyslexia is being recognised as having a whole heap of positives associated with it, but it’s not all positive! I lose my wallet, keys and phone every day; I avoid paperwork and forms (this causes untold amount of problems); walls of text horrify me; I am cursed with looking offended when I have to concentrate (I have a look on my face like you have killed my cat if a conversation requires me to concentrate deeply); I say weird stuff sometimes because my brain leaps around in ways that often others don’t; and I regularly have a pronounced and vaguely embarrassing pause mid-sentence as I try and drag seemingly unrelated content from my right brain and connect it with a conventional left brain conversation. It’s awkward, and I can be difficult to work and live with.
So, we’ve established there is a yin and yang thing going on with dyslexia, so let’s extend this out beyond dyslexia. Creatives are quick witted, artistic, funny, visual, pithy, romantic, sharp. Sometimes. They are also often frustrated, suffer from highs and lows, have a heightened sense of embarrassment, are obsessed with people pleasing and are chronic worriers. Not all the time, although I’d assert positives and negatives are in equal measure.
The idea that being good at something is easy isn’t true, whatever your circumstance. Being good at something, really good at something and especially being as good as you can be, takes effort, real effort. This is as true with creativity as it is any other area of life whether that’s being scientific, organised, prolific, articulate, inspiring, or whatever you are trying to achieve professionally.
Yin and yang
My view is that, as a society, the Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z generations are starting to reimagine how we view ourselves, with these changes slowly evolving from being on the fringe to mainstream views – as in the case of the halo that dyslexia now (mostly) benefits from. In the main, this is all very positive, but my hope is that this surge of positivity is measured and doesn’t create problems in its extreme (for clarity, my politics lean to the left and I’m liberal by nature; the idea that society is becoming “woke” and the educated liberal elite are rejecting the right wing 80s stereotyping mulch of the likes of Trump is exactly how it should be).
My word of caution is this; let’s not become so “right on” and “woke” that we don’t see life with its warts and all. Logically, if we whitewash problems and only see the good in everything, we create further problems. My limited experience in this arena and the illustration I have drawn is that having dyslexia is brilliant, it makes you a fab-entrepreneurial-creative-type and this should be embraced. Bullshit; being dyslexic is a hard road and being a fab-entrepreneurial-creative-type takes hard work, whether you are dyslexic or not.
By creating a halo of positivity around every challenging situation and creating an over prescriptive framework of language and reference points by which to understand more complexed situations is dangerous and puts people under pressure. Life is amazing and tough in equal measure. People are both brilliant and awful. Everywhere we go there is yin and yang, and that’s just fine. In this context, hiring a creative type to work with you or on a project means you’re not necessarily working with someone who is living their best life. Easy breezy cruisers sliding through life on an artistic whim they might be, but it’s not a sure thing (although I do believe that the more fun you can have the more creative you are likely to be).