Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

To Be Creative Is to Be Misunderstood

I have this belief that creative people are more misunderstood than “normal” people. Why is this?

To Be Creative Is to Be Misunderstood

Maybe it’s because creative people think outside the box (the truth is often they are often unaware such a “box” even exists).

Or maybe it has to do with the fact that creative people sometimes ask dangerous questions, questions that can sometimes sound silly or antagonistic, but that’s not the case. Creatives are curious about everything. They test boundaries, not to be rebellious, but to simply explore — to understand, to learn.

Creative people make others uncomfortable. Often more daring and willing to fail, they are unique — true individuals — and this often threatens the status quo.

The threat of the creative individual

Because they are so different, creatives can be perceived as threats to the institution. Which is unfortunate, because so many organizations are in dire need of more creativity. They’re just scared of the people who might bring it.

The world is full of bureaucracies and programs, and because of this, creatives can find themselves frustrated with their attempts to fit in to such systems. They just don’t.

Sadly, this leads to them being excluded and feeling misunderstood. At best, they are as a means to an end, a cog in the machine of producing propaganda for the cause. At worst, they are perceived as a threat that needs to be eliminated.

So what do we do about this?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a pretty way out of this predicament. To be creative is to be misunderstood. That’s all there is to it.

So the question is: will do you the hard work of not fitting in so you can create something that matters, or merely blend in with the masses? What alternative is there in a world of conformists and wannabes? Because who really wants to fit into a system that doesn’t celebrate original thinking?

And if it bugs you that this sort of activity is relegated to so-called “creatives” (as much as it bugs me), then maybe it’s time you did something about it. Maybe it’s time to be creative, time to be misunderstood.

Time to create something worth noticing. Time to challenge the status quo.

Whether you consider yourself creative or not, you can embrace your inner creativity and make your contribution. The world needs more trailblazers and fire starters, more trendsetters willing to buck the system and do something interesting.

Have you ever been misunderstood for your ideas? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I am the author of four books, including The Art of Work. I also run an online business teaching writers how to get the attention their work deserves. Every week, I send out an email newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • http://www.not2us.net Lindsay

    “And so, for the most part, they are tragically misunderstood. At best, they are seen as a means to an end–a cog in the machine of producing propaganda for a cause. At worst, they are perceived as a threat that neds to be eliminated.

    In my opinion, there isn’t a pretty way out of this predicament. To be creative is to be misunderstood. What alternative is there in a world of conformists and wannabes?

    After all, who wants to fit in?”

    Easier blogged than lived, my friend. Easier blogged than lived…

    (But working on it with all my heart…)

    • Jeff Goins

      Can you expound on what you mean, Lindsay? Not sure I completely understand.

      • http://www.not2us.net Lindsay

        I meant that, in theory, I completely agree with you. When I look at the culture around me (including American Christian culture), I don’t want to fit in. But, when I find myself in places and situations where I’m misunderstood, it’s very hard to tell myself, “Who wants to fit in anyway?” In that moment, when I’m feeling frustrated/hurt/misunderstood, I really want nothing more than to simply fit in and fade into the background.

        But I know that’s not what I’ve been called to. I need to continue to use the gifts I’ve been given…even when it puts me in positions and situations where I’m misunderstood.

        It’s just one thing to say that and another thing to have the courage and confidence to do it. :)

        • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

          You’re right; I’m with you. It’s hard to be courageous in being yourself.

  • http://beingministry.com Paul

    You called it. Different often is considered bad, and who wants to understand that? Good post.

    • Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Paul. I love that you’re different.

  • Mandythompson

    Thank you for writing what we’re all feeling but don’t have the words or freedom to say…

    • Jeff Goins

      You’re welcome, Mandy. Thanks for the comment!

  • http://rkweblog.com Rich Kirkpatrick

    Thanks Jeff. We are misunderstood and on top of that sometimes pretend we should be! I appreciate the permission to walk in my skin.

    • Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Rich. Loved meeting you last week!

  • Armandtj

    Oh man, just what i needed to read. I posted this on my facebook wall. :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins


  • Joylynn

    Nice article! There really is no better you than YOU!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins


  • http://www.facebook.com/jahnna.randall Jahnna Randall

    amazing read!

  • http://pickadirectionandgo.blogspot.com/ mickholt

    That would be a good title or rally cry, “Let’s get MISUNDERSTOOOOOOOOOOOOD!”

    Good Post, thank you, Sir.

  • Farhan

    flawlessly written

  • Brooke Hardwick Writer

    You sing to my heart

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins


  • http://www.leadbychoice.co/ Kimunya Mugo

    Yep! Sounds all too familiar. I like the fact that you mention that creatives may not even know that a box exists. For me, when I consciously ‘burned’ the box that others had others had thrown me into, I flourished. It was a way of dealing with my fears too. I wonder what boxes you may have had to burn along your life’s journey…

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Love it! Good question. One box was that I needed someone else’s approval to do what I loved.

      • http://www.leadbychoice.co/ Kimunya Mugo

        Same here Jeff. I thank God that his still voice got through my ‘tough’ exterior. Oh didn’t I work hard at getting other people’s permission. As the saying goes, it’s easier to turn a moving car than a stationery one.

  • Annetta Nesler

    I have always felt misunderstood, but I have always been a creative person too, so it makes sense now! Another thing I think creative people, like myself, experience is fear. Usually fear is what pushes us into those boxes people create, either because we are afraid to try, or because we are afraid to fail. Anyway, great post. Thanks for the reminder, and the challenge to remain strong and creative! :-)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re welcome!

  • Sabita Saleem

    Awesome post Jeff… Well I can’t remember a time when I hadn’t been misunderstood. As an individual and as a writer, being misunderstood is a great feeling, a feeling that tells those creative freaks how unique they are, such that they possess the capability to shake nations.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Amen sabita!

  • hay

    I have always been highly creative and extremely sensitive which makes me misunderstood on a daily basis….. I guess it comes with the territory :/

  • hay

    Its sad because to be an artist means not fitting in, but I think when you start trying to fit in you end up losing some creativity as if your letting go of the child within you. I believe the need to for into the mold has hindered my creativity pretty substantially :((