When you're an artist, you have to know that you have a reputation for being a little different.
In some cases, it’s even a point of pride. We like to think of ourselves as being a one-of-a-kind person who marches to the beat of our own drum. We enjoy being known as the quirky creative who refuses to fit into anyone’s mold.
But is it possible to take this idea too far? Is there a way to be true to ourselves and our creative calling without self-destructing in the process? How do we maintain a balance between being authentic and being a leader whom others respect and trust?
It begins with understanding the nature of quirks, those funny little habits and ways of talking or thinking that make up who you are. Here are a few examples:
· The co-worker who wears the same type of shirt every day.
· The girl who has a purple stripe in her hair.
· The kid down the street who is obsessed with playing Minecraft.
· The friend who only drinks his coffee black.
· The cousin who likes to wear mismatched socks.
· The guy who is obsessed with U2 and has seen them in concert seventeen times.
Here’s the thing about quirks: You should never let your “quirkiness” become an excuse for not doing your best work. The key lies in the difference between quirks and character flaws.
Quirks are okay when they are part of your personality. Quirks can even help you be more creative and think outside the box. (I have more than a few quirks myself!) But quirks cannot replace character.
Sometimes It's Not Being Quirky
Have you ever known someone who had character flaws, but just explained them away as being “quirks”? This is reinforced in our culture by the concept of the “artistic temperament,” which says that artists are prone to being egocentric, moody, always late, and hard to work with.
Those are not quirks. Those are character flaws. Those are signs of immaturity and laziness. Those are the marks of an artist who may be an adult, but who’s acting like a child. Those are the qualities of an artist who is not ready to be a leader and operate in the real world of deadlines, limitations, and teamwork.
A few months after I graduated from college, I landed my first full-time job as a worship leader at a church in northern Illinois. The workday began at 9:00 a.m., but I usually didn’t arrive until at least 9:15 or 9:30. I reasoned that because I was at the church several evenings a week, I should be able to come in a little later. I didn’t see a problem with bending the rules as long as I got my work done.
Then one day, the senior pastor called me into his office and reprimanded me for always coming in late. (I really had no excuse since I lived next door.) I didn’t like being corrected, but that incident made me realize that I wasn’t exempt from the standards everyone else had to follow. My “quirk” of coming to work late was in fact hurting my reputation and productivity.
It’s fine to be quirky, but you should never excuse bad behavior in the name of being a “quirky artist.” Be authentic, and never pretend to be someone you’re not. But be the best version of yourself—one who rises to the challenge, takes responsibility, and does such great work that others want to work with you.
Questions For You To Consider
1. What do you consider to be your quirks? Do they help or hinder you in your creative work?
2. What quirks have others noticed in you?
3. Think about other creative people you’ve known. What were some of their quirks, and how did those characteristics affect their relationships or creative output?
4. Do you think you have an artistic temperament? Why or why not?