Chaos Breeds Creativity

I’ve been using this descriptor for myself for the past few years: creative human. I like the simplicity of it, and it’s something that describes me as a person. I don’t like putting labels on it - sure, I’m a designer. But I’m also a chef, an amateur carpenter, a marketer, a writer, a manager, a coach… you get the idea. I approach all of these with the same mindset: a little bit of creativity goes a long way.

The creative mind has always interested me. Studies have shown that we’re both introverted and extroverted at the same time. That we’re intrinsically motivated, and see the world as a chance for self-expression. We daydream, record everything around us, and often lose track of time. The creative mind never stops - it’s a gift and a curse. I often lay awake at night working through ideas that will likely never come to fruition while storing them in my ever-expanding mental filing cabinet of passion projects.

So what sets a creative mind apart? In my humble opinion, it’s the ability to thrive in chaos. Tight deadlines, last minute changes, and unplanned obstacles are a part of a designer’s daily life. Chefs turn basic ingredients to amazing cuisine through a process that (in most kitchens) can only be described as chaos. You’ve got to be able to pivot when you hit a bump, and creatives seem to have that common thread in their DNA.

Some of the best pieces of creation were created under less-than-ideal circumstances.

Did you know that the part we all know and love from MLK’s “I have a dream” speech was almost entirely improvised? The night before the speech, MLK’s group lobbied several suggestions that were put together into a final draft that he was to use the following day (this is what was delivered to the press). On one of the grandest stages he’d ever spoken on, though, he found himself essentially reading this collection of feedback off the page.

He paused at the 7th paragraph, seemingly because he had lost his spot. His friend, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, shouted “tell ‘em about the dream, Martin!” In that moment, he pushed the prepared speech to the side. His speech writer, Clarence B. Jones, said to the people around him: “These people out there today don’t know it yet, but they’re about to go to church.” Following the long pause around the 12 minute mark, there's a large shift in passion and conviction:

The rest, as they say, is history. It’s amazing to think that one of the greatest orators in American history decided (mid-speech, mind you) to go off script. But this is where a creative’s ability to harness chaos shines. He took one cue, and delivered the best speech he had ever given.

Working within the constraints you are given to develop something extraordinary is ultimately the power of the creative mind. Where some may say “I can’t do it because of X, Y, and Z,” a creative’s response is typically “what can I do with X, Y, and Z?”

Take this live performance in Koln by Keith Jarrett. The venue had substandard equipment (unplayable, in his words), and he wanted to skip the show entirely. He was convinced to do it (albeit begrudgingly), but then told a crew to record it to show the world what a musical disaster sounded like. Instead, he fought through it and created what is now known as one of the best solo jazz performances of all time. Listen to it - you wouldn’t have any idea that it was created under such extreme circumstances:

Perhaps one of my favorite examples of creating from chaos is Stanislav Krawczyk (@standarkart on Instagram). Born with a degenerative eye condition and cerebral palsy, most of his young life was spent inside of Ukrainian hospitals. At the age of 13, he decided dark art was the perfect way to express his life - the pain, emotion, frustrations associated with his conditions and upbringing. Instead of letting the chaos define his being, he has parlayed this extreme set of circumstances into a career selling his artwork in Los Angeles.

Artwork by Stanislav Krawczyk

Artwork by Stanislav Krawczyk

We spend so much time (and money, if we’re being honest) trying to create order, calm, and cleanliness. Often, we feel it reduces stress and helps maintain some semblance of control. But that begs the question - are we working against ourselves? We’ve seen some of the best work come from less-than-ideal circumstances. Had Martin Luther King followed his speech as it were on paper, it still would have been good, but I doubt we’d speak of it in the legendary way we do now. Keith Jarrett’s piano performance would have been just another concert.

Chaos allows us to explore other avenues, ways that are often not considered when everything's going according to plan. When a constant is taken away, how do we find new ways to achieve better (different, even) results?

Chaos breeds creativity.

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So, with that in mind, I’m pivoting. I have so many ideas to share, so many people to learn from - and my website was sitting here as a stagnant portfolio. I’m still planning on sharing work (and I am always open to working with new clients!), but I will also use this platform to share things I learn from my mentors, new ideas, design work, and anything else I find of value.

Hope you enjoy!