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Why Artistic People Are Insane (Or, "Why We Are All Teetering On the Edge of Being Van Gogh")

By Lisa Curry
Talent Zoo

Think of every creatively brilliant person you've ever known: artists, musicians, writers, inventors... The majority of them are a little on the eccentric side, aren't they? Even the outwardly normal ones. Deep down, they're ragingly, droolingly insane...

Maybe the title is a bit misleading, but I still think it's apt. Think of every creatively brilliant person you've ever known: artists, musicians, writers, inventors... the list goes on and on. The majority of them are a little on the eccentric side, aren't they? Even the outwardly normal ones. Deep down, they're ragingly, droolingly insane...

Okay, so we're not quite that bad. But I do hold fast to the notion that you have to be at least a little bit insane for this business. I mean, really. Why else would you willingly put yourself through the things we do every day? Deadlines that will keep you up for 36 hours straight, clients who think they're more creative than you are, clients who have absolutely no concept of what it really takes to put a piece together, impossible demands, no real time to yourself, phone calls at all hours, press checks at 6:30am on a weekend that turn into a 3-day ordeal, vendors hassling you for money, you hassling your clients for payment, and the absolute ability to turn on and off your creativity at a moment's notice.

And that's not all!

Show our contestants what else they've won...

A lifetime of every cousin you have and every Joe Schmoe on the street telling you, "I have this little program that came with Windows that does that. I'm a designer, too." You ask if he went to school for it. "No," he replies, restating his previous qualifier, "but I made this great garage sale flyer for a friend of a cousin of an uncle of a neighbor. It turned out pretty well. I think I'll go into business and be a designer, too."

That alone will be enough to make you want to cut off an ear, although the urge will be more likely to cut off theirs.

What some of these self-taught "designers" don't seem to realize is that the years of college, whether community, state, technical, online, or whatever, don't teach us how to be creative. They teach us the tools and the technical know-how so we don't completely suck at our jobs. If you're not at least partially creative and moderately educated to begin with (or have the burning desire to become that way), all the schooling and all the graphics software in the world will not help you.

That's not to say you should skip the training if you think you're creative. Training teaches you the history, the richness of the art, the tools of the trade, and how to hone the creativity you have so you don't make the mistake of using 16 fonts, a mismatched rainbow of colors, and every Photoshop filter ever invented in one tiny little ad. The next time you see a project like that in progress, smack the "designer" upside the head, and ask him what the hell he thinks he's doing. Because that is not creativity. That is using all the tools you have just because you have them. Being able to use a tool does not mean you're suddenly an expert. I can use a hammer, but that doesn't mean I can build a house.

You also get a lifetime of being completely misunderstood. People nod and stare at you blankly when you tell them what you do; distant family members think you're some weird street artist who lives on the brink of poverty and hustles passersby for their cash; corporate co-workers (and clients) think you're so far beneath them they can treat you like a personal slave; and the illusion your professors gave you in college about making $100K a year starting (or ever, for that matter) is exactly that. An illusion.

So why do it at all? It's love. A fiery burn in the pit of your soul to pursue the one thing besides family and friends that makes you truly happy. If you love the work, sitting for hours in front of a computer screen, redoing that one image because it's just not perfect yet, then this career is for you. If you're in it for the money, don't even start it, because you will burn out in 6 months and waste 2 to 4 years of your life living on minimum wage and a second job to find that out.

I've long resigned myself to this career making me crazy. Maybe I already was a little bit. Either way, the insanity helps keep me sane. is the online destination for both job seekers and employers in the communications industry. It's also a must for up-to-the minute content on industry trends, news, career guidance, or just to schmooze. Find a better life with Talent Zoo (

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