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.

45 thoughts on “To Be Creative Is to Be Misunderstood

  1. “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…)

      1. 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. 🙂

          1. Do you have a book about refining your creative self and how to overcome the struggles creative people face (to survive or succeed) in a conformists society? :/

        1. Being a truly creative person in today’s world means to be almost constantly scrutinized/discriminated… I know the feeling! I’ve recently learned that it is my creativity that sets me apart and IF I am to survive in this world then I need an outlet to continue discovering my creativity, rather than continue to struggle to fit in.

          I am 35 and have never understood just wtf is wrong with me and why everyone else is sooooo different. ALL of my life has been a struggle. I am intelligent, I have common sense, I struggle slightly socially, but still fit in fairly well (I wouldn’t trade my loved ones for anything!), yet all of my life I have struggled unsuccessfully to be a “cog” for the machine.

          Anyway, I am seeking social groups or any other means of conveyance to further understand my own creativity and how it can benefit my goal of survival within a society that is clearly against creative thinking. Not sure if you have been on the same search I am for the tools/time I need to enable myself. I am learning this subject seems to be fairly well known, yet I find nothing to give me direction as a creative outlet (my own problem, of course!). If anything like this exists, please let me know!

          Anyway, I know what you mean. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!

  2. 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…

      1. 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.

  3. 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! 🙂

  4. 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.

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

  6. 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 :((

  7. Jeff, you paint quite a dismal picture here..too bad it’s so very general and doesn’t have any strong examples or any real meat. It’s really a bunch of fluff with ads inserted. I have a degree in writing and have experienced the trial’s and tribulations of a “creative.” I have worked with writers, art directors, art designers, exc..and experienced how it feels to have to conform to the needs of the client and/or society. That is an absolute given in most realms of art. There is a business aspect. Judging by your blog, you know enough about it. You cant just do whatever you want. It has to make sense. It has to speak to people.

    This blog works as a basic way to inspire people “feeling a certain way” not to give up. But mostly it smells like a fresh cow patty.

    1. Why would you use your words for such negativity? You said that he was inspiring people not to give up…isn’t that enough?

      I get that you do this for a living, but who made you the world’s editor? Last I checked, that title was nonexistent.

      “He’s doing something good”. Leave it at that. Besides, does any creative (the apparent target audience) really need any “real meat” to understand what he’s talking about? I didn’t. Maybe you just don’t get it.

      Opinions are like assholes: everyone has them.

      And yours stinks, my friend.

  8. Jeff, the thing about creative people is that they are often more intelligent than average people. I read about a study where they proofed that. Now, more intelligent people are often misunderstood because less people can follow their explanations and arguments. Some social scientists found out that the president of the US, elected by the population has a lower IQ than Englands premier elected by the parliament whitch in turn is elected by the population. So Jeff, just to answer ur question, the crativity is mostly a side effect of intelligence (but does not have to be) and is not the reason why these people are misunderstood. I’m sorry for my english and I hope you’ll understand it.

    Best regards
    Pero Bozic

  9. I wonder if it’s the other way around.

    If we are misunderstood by those around us when growing up, then we begin to create things in the hope that “the world” will understand us instead.

    Then the interesting question is: why would we be misunderstood? Humans aren’t so complex, we all have the same needs and desires. Misunderstanding is either because: 1) we don’t express ourselves truthfully and fully, 2) those around us don’t understand our expression fully.

    Our default is to assume 2, but I wonder if 1 is more common than we imagine.

    The reason 1 is so common is that expressing ourselves is not easy. “True” expression means going beyond any defenses and neuroses and opinions and expressing how we feel at our core. We’re often not good at that, even if we think we are.

    Side note: If we believe 2 is happening when in fact it is 1, then we become neurotic and then what we express becomes unrelatable (except to others with the same neurosis, but that doesn’t really get us anywhere except other people will now reinforce our incorrect beliefs and misery), and further “confirms” our belief in 2 being how the world is.

    My point: notable creativity might be a coping mechanism that develops largely due to poor ability to express ourselves “truthfully”. Why this ability is poor is another question. Mostly due to upbringing of course.

  10. To be misunderstood implies that we are not expressing ourselves well. The best artists are also quite intelligent and have no trouble expressing themselves. The rest of us, myself included, have trouble saying what is on our minds. This article panders to the majority of artistic people who have trouble expressing themselves. It also forgets that people who think outside the box are dangerous to society because our ideas could destroy it. So we are actually a danger to the rest of humanity. I’m not saying that society and ‘the way things are done’ is good. I’m saying that if our ideas were implemented, society, economies, and the world order might collapse. Perhaps it is best to keep us on the side lines. Our ideas get implemented incrementally. Bernie Sanders, for instance.

  11. Yeah, I pretty much agree with this. To be creative is to be admired or hated/misunderstood. Yeah, it sucks. But it’s good to know that you’re not alone, and that there are plenty of artists who have “made it” despite the obstacles. And by “made it,” I don’t mean “financially stable and admired for their work/successful,” I mean they just don’t give a crap anymore and just do their thing, and do it fully. <3

    1. Expressive, blunt, to the point, doesnt cut corners or beats around the bush, out spoken. Nothing wrong with that.

  12. The act of being creative and having to overcome the many obstacles of being a creative person trying desperately to survive in a conformist world, is exactly where I find myself in life. Are there any groups or movements for people who seem to be lost in this cycle of society? Any direction would be greatly appreciated, thank you in advance.

  13. I am an artists. I can see what others cant. Even a hand drawn sketch in pencil, while othets watch me do my art what looks like to them scribble on a paper later forms an image. They admire that with a piece of paper, pencil i can draw a picture that can be placed with 1000 stories with a million words each. Its stiring others minds up. Its causing what was a 40 miles per hour machine to run instantly over 1000 miles per hour in 10 seconds flat. People say im insane, crazy, rude, too often misunderstood. I cant help BUT SEE.

  14. I have zero problems with expressing myself, but people often misunderstand, because they do not understand the nature of the art, even when it is explicitly expressed, many people just have a hard time with ideas that jibe against their everyday “normal”, ie. cognitive dissonance.

    I do many kinds of art, from songwriting, to singing, to drawing, to painting, to playing
    instruments, to acting, to writing, to dance. None of them are conventional. Sometimes this gets me cheers, sometimes it gets eyebrow raises, and sometimes, outright repulsion.

    I reconciled some time back, when I was a teenager(I am now 32yrs), that I would not conform to societal norms. Which, actually, my being a devout Bible-believing Christian, is counter culture, to be in the world and not of it, and no, I do not attempt to change the world, but when I can, I do share the gospel, and this, by it’s nature is not understood by most people. This wont make sense to most, and obviously I’m okay with that. I don’t fit in with the people who talk big, but don’t live a Christian life, which by the way, are most of the people whom say they are Christians in America, and the world. I suppose I’ve always been used to non-conformity because of this, and I don’t make decisions based on emotions, but the Bible, which even with “Christians” will and does, make me highly unpopular at times.

    Growing up, I painted my clothes, I still do, I have designed my own clothing since I was 11yrs, some of my clothing confuses people, because it is unusual, not not ugly, but different. When it comes to clothing, I never follow trends, if I don’t make them, I select pieces based on my own personal asthetic, and they must fit into the whole of my own personal style. I have been told numerous times, that I have very eccentric clothing and combine things in unusual ways. I always like to tell the story of my mom telling me I couldn’t wear pink with red because “they don’t match”, that still makes no sense to me, because pink is a lighter shade of red, and I was 6yrs and I told my mom so. My mom is not a creative type, so I suppose that makes sense. lol

    I like to express my personal pain in my drawings and painting, which by nature, make them polarizing, some people really like them, some are outright repulsed by them. No one is never not intrigued by them.

    My technique is not phenomenal, but I also do’t care. I don’t want perfect technique, I just want to convey what’s in my head, and if I can do that, I am happy. I want to show things that maybe other haven’t, or at least do it better, I am always on a quest to create better and better, but also with more and more honesty, not less. I don’t fear people getting mad at me, as long as it is for the right reasons, and it happens more often than not.

    Because I write songs, and often rearrange existing songs, not because I can, but to improve them, it is also hard to find like-minded people, but I realize, not many people actually like to do that.

    I like to dance interpretatively, but also combine most forms of dance, from ballet to jazz to belly dancing to hip hop to even martial arts. I cannot help but to use anything I have seen or learned at some point in time. It, confuses people, but also often makes them happy. I never danced like everyone else, though I can if I want to, I just don’t like to, I like to do it in a way that is unexpected, spontaneous, and fun. This is the fun of choreographing, but especially improv choreography, which is what I am best at.

    God Bless ~Amy

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