Be Real Creative

Yesterday I said I want to be real and I think an explanation is in order to fully understand the implications of that statement. In a nutshell, from a personal perspective, I was tired of trying to emulate others and tired of trying to be a “fancy” or “cool” business or company like others. It’s…

Yesterday I said I want to be real and I think an explanation is in order to fully understand the implications of that statement. In a nutshell, from a personal perspective, I was tired of trying to emulate others and tired of trying to be a “fancy” or “cool” business or company like others. It’s not me. Deep down I’m still that simple country kid who grew up on an acreage outside of Edmonton, Alberta. The kid who likes walking through the wheat fields with his dog reveling in the beauty of nature around him. That’s me.

So immediately when thinking about this, I knew that for me to be real I had to stop trying to copy or emulate others. I needed to turn off those thoughts and constantly be on guard against them. Instead I needed to turn off the machine that was me and restart myself as a person, as a distinct diverse individual. Even more so, I realized that I needed to start reveling in my diversity. I needed to stop trying to play it safe by copying others and instead needed to start taking risks of my own so that the real me could shine through, for better or worse. After all, none of us are perfect, no matter how much we want to be.

As soon as I started thinking about this though, about reveling in my diverse identity, something struck a chord in me and resonated deeply. I thought again about the multiple mediums out there constantly bombarding us to be someone else (i.e. Buy Dolt Cola! Britney does!) to the point that many young people today probably spend more time emulating someone else (being stereotypical) than trying to discover their own unique identity.

Realization struck me again as I knew that I wanted to be a part of helping people to discover their true identities and even more so to help them to communicate their wonderfully diverse identities to the world. Therefore, instead of clients who were trying to be like someone else, I wanted clients who wanted to take risks in striving to be diversely different be they individuals setting up their first blog, small businesses launching their first product site, or artists trying to get their unique message or vision out to the world. I wanted to work with people who weren’t afraid to show the world how different they really are compared to others.

Again I immediately realized a couple of others things when thinking about this. I now knew why I had such a deep connection with the 37 Signals book entitled Getting Real. It’s because I kept feeling that the “typical” way of working didn’t work with me and I wanted to work in a much more natural way. That being building things progressively bit by bit in a more natural evolutionary approach versus spending a lot of time trying to build everything all at once (trying to achieve perfection in one swoop) which only leads to stress for both myself and the client due to all of the intertwined complexities of the project.

I also knew why I liked using Squarespace so much as well, to the point that I only use it now when developing websites. It’s because I find it so usable, for myself and my clients, and it naturally fits with the way I work. So much so that instead of building graphical comps for some clients, I instead quickly mockup the site in Squarespace itself. Is it “perfect” and does it allow me to do everything I want? No, but what it does allow me to achieve, it does exceedingly well, far better than any other web development service I’ve seen to date. Therefore I’m more than willing to turn away clients who want to try to achieve “perfection” with some other content management service or app because they often don’t realize the dreadful complexities and stress of trying to use them after their site is done.

And finally to wrap things up, I realized I need some sort of mantra again to remind myself of all of these things on a daily basis. Therefore I came up with the two words “be real”. Yet again something felt like it was missing and I added the word “creative” at the end because that’s what I was trying to be with my work, creative. So all together, I now say “be real creative” as my daily mantra so that it reminds me of the values I want for myself and the values that I’m searching for in others, be it to work with them or to help them express their own.

What’s interesting about this mantra is that it could easily be a company name and I was seriously considering doing this, even obtaining the domain name of for this purpose. However something stopped me. As soon as I started thinking about doing this, I reverted back to my old ways and starting thinking how I could emulate other designers in making a cool site for this company. I therefore knew this wasn’t the right path to take, at least not now. Possibly in the future. Even then though, I still have this aversion to being a “company”, as I want my individual diversity to be what people see instead of some corporate logo or identity.

If anything though, when looking at the word “creative”, I was reminded of the creative commons and how a collective of people seemed to suit this idea much better, as it relates better with the values trying to be relayed. Therefore just like I use this as a sort of daily mantra, I’m wondering if there are others who would like to use it as well, to the point that it could be a sort of mantra / mission statement banner on sites for those who strive to pursue the same ideals. Therefore instead of the idea being lost within the company, the idea stands on its own for anyone to use, as long as they believe its basic values.

Anyways something to think about. For now though, I’m just happy repeating it to myself to remind myself of who I am, where I’ve come from, and where I want to go.

By Nollind Whachell

Questing to translate Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey into The Player’s Handbook for the roleplaying game called Life, thus making vertical (leadership) development an accessible, epic framework for everyone.