Understanding Right-Brainers: The Curse Of The Creative

Last night, I had a shocking revelation that I’m cursed.

This is even more serious than my nearly fatal, almost-heart-attack and 7 other legitimate, self-diagnosed diseases, except not really. Have I lost you already? Interesting. Maybe it’s because you’re cursed too. Although, I have fruit loops as my screen saver, so I would take my assessments with a grain of salt. But please, make it sea salt because the last thing I need to worry about is your skyrocketing blood pressure. And we all know that sea salt is God’s salt.

If you’re a creative person, then you get it. You could write this entire post for me. And actually, I wish you would because I’m really supposed to be working right now. If you’re not, but you’re dating one then this might help you understand us a little bit better. ‘Cus I feel for you, I really do, because if I was a normal person wearing a polo shirt and clocking out at five from a stable job that provided benefits and paid vacation, I would be confused by us too.

I love the fact that my right brain likes to run such a passionate and colorful show. But, my goodness, I just want to punch it sometimes. Then, I realize that I have a hole in my head and that would lead to my sudden death. Here’s why we’re cursed:

*Right-Brained Creatives are insatiable punks with undiagnosed ADHD.

This is, however, a necessary evil because without this trait we would fail. We can’t ever stop creating, evolving, improving, changing – and it’s not because we want to be the best  – it’s because our minds literally won’t let us stop. We are constantly flooded with ideas, to the point of insomnia. We’re restless. And when we finally do go to bed at 3 am, we’ll wake up and jot down ideas in the middle of the night. We have crazy schedules, our eyes are always bloodshot and we like it that way because you can’t force creativity and you certainly can’t stop when it’s flowing. I literally have a notebook with tabbed dividers to keep track of ideas. This is an instance where I really wish I still had that Lisa Frank trapper keeper. The notebook goes a little something like this: blog ideas, website ideas, conversations I had/overheard, DIY ideas, house ideas, photo tips, video ideas, typography, inventions that no one will ever make, marketing ideas for companies (as if this will EVER be useful) and there’s also an ongoing list of my Top Favorite 90s songs. Wouldn’t that just make anyone go nuts?

When I finally ditched the corporate world and became a writer, it was the best decision of my life. But in order to make money, I had to write about stupid stuff like reality TV and the economy. So, I had to find another creative outlet, which ended up being this blog and photography. But I couldn’t just leave it at that. Then I taught myself Photoshop and had to go and start an entire photography business. Recently, I’ve taken up furniture refinishing. Like I said, insatiable

*Right-Brained Creatives thrive on risk. But not those kind of risks.

I won’t even go to Great America for goodness sakes. We thrive on risk because we have to. A large majority of creatives are freelancers/self-employed -we never know where our next job will come from. This means that we usually marry a left-brainer because otherwise we’d be on the streets. We need to be challenged. We get inspired and run with it. For instance, I started an entire retail store in my local mall, on a whim, without any prior business or retail experience. Why? Because as  a child I always wanted to have my own store and when I lived in London I became inspired. Surprisingly, it was a very creative job because I controlled the entire design, store displays, marketing, etc. But, the retail world didn’t allow much room for other creative pursuits. So, naturally, it had to go.

*Right-Brained Creatives are workaholics, who are almost always underpaid and okay with that.

Vacation, what? I would be willing to bet that every creative person reading this would agree that they would rather scrape by for the rest of their life and do what they love than make six figures working in a corporate office. It’s sad, but we accept the fact that creative talent is extremely undervalued. Just as teachers accept that they will always be underpaid; but they keep doing it because it’s their passion.

It’s just how we’re built. And when we try to box ourselves into that lifestyle, we lose a bit of ourselves. We become unhappy. We feel unfulfilled. We are merely existing rather than living.

*Right Brained Creatives rotate hobbies like politicians rotate mistresses.

On top of our “main focus” whether it be graphic design, music, writing, photography – we have a million other hobbies. And we are constantly finding more. For instance, I’ll see something I like online and think, “Yea, I could totally make that.” Then, I’ll realize I don’t know how to sew, so I’ll spend a hundred hours on YouTube watching tutorials on how to sew. And when I’m finished crafting my masterpiece, I’ll contemplate opening up an Etsy shop for all of the new stuff I’m going to sew. For example, I picked up an extreme couponing habit at 2 am last week and the week before that I refinished my kitchen cabinets.

One thing I must say that has made my life worse/better is Pinterest. It’s like a collection of online corkboards where you can pin any picture you see on the internet and it automatically links it back to that post or tutorial. You can browse other people’s pins, follow your favorite boards and there is just an ENDLESS SUPPLY OF AWESOMENESS. This really has ruined my life and I don’t suggest it. 

* Creatives are perfectionists who can’t say no.

It’s bad enough that we often work for next to nothing. But, we even have a hard time saying no to free projects. There are two reasons for this: 1. the project could gain good exposure for our work 2. we love what we do and if it’s a really fun project, we want to do it. We are perfectionists to a fault because just as soon as we’re close to finishing something, we’ve already thought of how we could improve it.

It’s a vicious cycle. It’s a busy, messy life. It’s anything but boring. And I just wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wondering where I went? I have returned to blogging over at my whole foods blog Celery and the City, where we live so clean it’s like your insides took a bath.

37 thoughts on “Understanding Right-Brainers: The Curse Of The Creative

  1. This is amazingly true, all of it. Even down to pinterest, which is funny because before you got to that part I was thinking 1. I’m totally going to pin the brain picture and 2. thank god pinterest is there to help organize my internet life.

    You are amazing. That is all 🙂

  2. Very interesting. I think I operate more on the left, but righty kicks in from time to time. The graphic is so cool but I must admit that the right side, while beautiful, scared me a little. 🙂

  3. Great post, and yes I agree with all of it. I once was told by a doctor who I was working for as a personal assistant: “You’re a right-brainer, aren’t you?” At the time I took it as an insult, but it’s true. I wasn’t cut out for that job and I knew it. It wasn’t creative, at all.

    I have a very similar notebook with tons of ideas scribbled down on every page. I don’t have tabs, though! I wish I did. It’d be a lot easier to find that “awesome” song lyric I wrote while half-asleep 🙂

  4. Hi, I’m Jen, have we met?

    Of course we have my right-brain lover. As a person who is 102.3% creative and indeed has DIAGNOSED ADHD I feel like I should have a lot to say on this note…but instead I’m going to go and finish sewing that owl doorstop I started last Sunday whilst I was watching the Hangover, building a website and stocking an e-Store (full of fabric….which is why I fancied sewing!) and after that I might go take some photos with the Canon DSLR that arrived yesterday (to replace the one I broke when I was being Right-Brain-Risky) or the 4 different Polaroid instants that arrived on Monday….because, you see, right-brainers also tend to have obsessive characteristics…and you know….I wouldn’t want to fail at being a stereotype!

  5. Get out of my head.

    Except don’t, because then I’d be lonely.

    I, too, have started to get into furniture refinishing. Although I did just write about how I will never, ever be an extreme couponer.

    I think I have those same glasses.

    I’m definitely grateful for my left-brainer husband. He’s the reason I learned to cook halibut and my pantry isn’t full of ramen noodles.

    Sometimes I miss my 9-5. But only for the paycheck. And then I remember wanting to walk through the glass front door while it was still closed every time I entered that building, and I get over it.

    Now I’m going to be insanely late to my new, $10/hour job. I’m way underpaid. But I deal with it because I’m learning how to flip and manage properties — something I might try to do for… oh… about 4 seconds before I give up and move on to something else.

    Thanks for reading my mind. 🙂

  6. So true. My problem is that I have enough of the left brain side of me fighting with the right side that I am completely screwed. I will get all messy, creative and nutty over all the new things I want to make/do. Then, I’ll freak out and spend hours organizing, structuring my time and generally being a total anal retentive. Combine this with a lack of self confidence and sensitivity and I get almost nothing done. But, it does make me special, and I like to think not in that creepy sort of way.

  7. Dude. I understand. . . ‘s me.
    “For instance, I’ll see something I like online and think, “Yea, I could totally make that.” Then, I’ll realize I don’t know how to sew, so I’ll spend a hundred hours on YouTube watching tutorials on how to sew. And when I’m finished crafting my masterpiece, I’ll contemplate opening up an Etsy shop for all of the new stuff I’m going to sew.”
    Totally. But it never actually happens, because I’m contemplating my Etsy shop whilst becoming involved in another, totally unrelated, project!

  8. Yes, and thank you for writing this.
    My issue is that I do have to pay the bills and have insurance, so I’m at that corporate crapshoot with all these ideas and that restless energy coursing through my veins. With the attention span of a gnat with ADD, I bitterly get my work done while jotting post-it notes every five seconds so I don’t forget something I want to remember when I’m home, inevitably beat from my day yet compelled to still write or create something.

    I used to think I was a lonely tortured soul, but then I realized I’m just “a creative.” I wrote about it, I felt better. Now I’ve read about it, and I feel better. Cheers to us.

    P.S. I’m at work. Case in point.

  9. Yes, I’m a creative person, therefore I DO get it.

    And it’s ironic you posted about right-brain versus left-brain because I was talking to someone about this not too long ago, and was telling them I am soooooooo dominated by the right-side of my brain, that it almost feels like I have no LEFT-brain. I think the only thing I use my left-brain for is balancing my checkbook – HA!

    Holy cow….everything you just shared here is sooooooooo me!

    ADHD – yup!

    Thrive on risk – yup!

    Workaholic – yup!

    Rotate hobbies – yup!

    Perfectionist – MAJOR yup!

    But it’s like you shared – it’s anything but boring. And I just wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I love being a right-brainer!

    Great post, girl!


  10. Wow, B.D… most of that sounds WAY too familiar.
    Other than the writing part. Because words hate me.
    But that’s okay. I’ve got plenty of other stuff keeping me awake all night.
    *holds up notebook* Can you read this, by the way? It seemed much more legible at 3:45 am. 🙂

  11. I’m a left brainer. But all my lovers have been right brainers and nearly all of my friends are too.

    Admit it, Right Brainers, when you’ve got one of us in your corner, your creative life gets a lot of support and freedom.

  12. “I would be willing to bet that every creative person reading this would agree that they would rather scrape by for the rest of their life and do what they love than make six figures working in a corporate office. ”

    Sadly I live in both sides of my brain which allows me to hang with both the analytical and creative types but on the flip side doesn’t allow me to be great at either. I have a crapload of ideas but won’t take a risk and dump my paycheck to spend the time I need on them. On the other hand, I love analyzing the hell out of crap and finding why others are doing stuff wrong.

  13. Oh….it’s their passion. I always thought it was their pension. eek!
    I’m so glad you addressed this right brain thing. I always thought I was a right brainer….but now it is quite obvious I have a split personality. Ha!
    This girl is always art-ing / crafting and has a gazillion projects going, but I am also pretty anal when it comes to organizing and categorizing.
    And although you are so right about the perfectionism, I also have this need to be in charge. If my name is going on it, I would rather do it all myself by myself,
    And if you can’t see it my way….go home.
    And I love Pinterest. It is my new place to keep tabs on all the stuff I want to do, paint, buy, etc…..someday.
    I once had a fit….no, scratch that…..I had a livid fit when one of my old pc went belly up. Why? Because I lost all my bookmarks.

  14. Um. I’m confused. I think you just made me into someone with multiple personalities.

    My day job? Science + math = left brain. I also very much enjoy things like… routine and lists. Lots of lists. So many lists, I had to cut back. And organizing. Damn, but I will organize shit that isn’t even mine.

    But. I NEED a creative outlet. My minor in undergrad was photograph. I draw, too. Or did. And then there’s my blog. I have fifteen posts already started on various ideas and thoughts. I have spent hours when I should be working at my Day Job indulging things that have nothing to do with my Day Job (… just your tax dollars at work over here!). I adore travel, I will never ever have “left over” sick and/or vacation days at the end of the year. Ever ever ever. I’ve been in once place five years and I restless as all hell.

    Well. Technically I already have three personas (real life me, burlesque me, blogging me) so… maybe it makes sense. Yikes.

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  16. I absolutely LOVE this post….because it is SO TRUE! I married a left brainer and he doesn’t see the logic in a lot of what I do…but we certainly do balance each other out! Seriously, I could write a reply longer than your post to confirm EVERYTHING you wrote…but you already know you’re a RIGHT RIGHT.

    Have a great weekend!

  17. creepy. you totally just described me. to at “T”. i’m so right brained i’m borderline psychotic!
    also, hi. love your blog. i found it via Chelsea Talks Smack.

  18. “I would be willing to bet that every creative person reading this would agree that they would rather scrape by for the rest of their life and do what they love than make six figures working in a corporate office. It’s sad, but we accept the fact that creative talent is extremely undervalued.”

    Amen to both sister! I am VERY creative and have the ADD you mentioned, lol. We should be more valued because society needs creative types to move forward and push limits.

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  20. Hi Blunt,

    ‘Verifying Godel’s Incompleteness via Chance Configuration Theory’

    Winston was once told with irony
    A thesis was required by Miss.Teach and soon
    A fact that forms parts of a degree
    Like learning exactly how that cow, flew over the moon
    She had her launch pad of ivory
    He, drowning nights with me
    The moon thus a silver grey haunting
    So we got it in! – Though late naturally
    Psychology it was and problem solving
    Well defined and Ill defined tests
    Personality and the results
    What is its real influence?
    Psychos do well at being creative
    Submissives nail the maths
    Except high level stuff like a shot to the moon
    But let’s not fall into blue sky traps
    Save either or for Kierkegaard’s analysis
    Or either for sweet Elliott’s crying guitar
    And if your brain grows, think neural plasticity
    Can only take you so far.
    Like a fact that forms part of a degree
    Winston’s own moon tower, a la space race,
    socially constructed like black and white,
    White skin has black DNA.
    His own pad to join up the dark
    Wait –
    Yeah, I help him tell things apart.
    And –
    He writes messy poems for me ‘bout stars
    Called ‘The Glorious Bubble Bath.’
    I am his left hemisphere
    So tomorrow can follow today
    He is a dominant right
    Telling convention ”they’re not twins, okay’’
    And we hold his Earth together
    Spilt by shadows.

    It was nice to come out and say ‘hi blunt’
    But righty wants this logic over
    Because absurd is logics last word
    The best of poetry is often its missing line
    Like, the mist of death, righty. Word?

    (Submitted as part of Blunt Delivery Degree Course
    BA Hons Withering Sarcasm Survival Studies)

  21. Even though I’m an engineer by day, with an education for it and everything, I’m not strictly left brained. Thank god for that, or I’d have zero personality at all, while spending my days staring at the same drawing on a computer day in and day out. Then again, the right brained part also comes with ADHD and difficulty remaining interested in… wait, what was I talking about again?

    I know too many left brained people, and they tend to be almost soulless. As dull as it gets. Their interests can be counted on one hand, and their conversations usually revolve around one of those very few things or work… which typically produces the most dry conversations ever.

    If it weren’t for right brained people like you, the world would be a boring place. For every right brained person barely scraping by, there’s another with a wildly amazing idea and that drive to make it successful. Just be glad you aren’t the right brained type with zero ambition – then you’d simply be sitting in your parents’ basement claiming no one understands your genius, while strumming your acoustic guitar and staring at your terrible abstract paintings. Right brained people may not be the most logical, but they certainly present a different world view, a different way to approach most issues, and while it can be frustrating at times to deal with the illogical mess they present, it continues to add intrigue to life.

    You’re a fascinating, creative woman, and while that has gotten you into some trouble in the past (coughboyscough), it all has voltroned (80s reference!) to make you the awesome person you are today.

  22. were you channeling me to write this? i wish i could write for a living or dance or perform or sell art or or or. . .

    while i’m not refinishing actual furniture, i AM currently making jewelry out of vintage dollhouse furniture. you’re totally going to love it.

    are you a synethsete? i am. i see letters, #s, days of the week, shapes & names in color. Specific Colors. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia

    i’m a grapheme.

  23. categories stump me. I want to stretch across them. It’s a combination of fear of exclusion and wanting to have it all. Or maybe I’m reluctant to commit to one side or the other. I have my left brain job, performing analytics. Today I’m making a movie of charts. It is very exciting. how cool to make a movie out of data? And then I work on my crafting and art projects (obsessions) at home. So I’m torn, fear of committing? Or wanting it all? Are undecided people Left or Right? xo Diane

  24. So, not gonna lie, this post describes me pretty spot on. However, there’s also some pretty solid arguments out there for me being a Left-Brainer.
    And this is probably why I feel so violently unstable most of the time. And why newfoundland is where I belong. (not having emergency clinics here, I don’t work 9-5. and not having a referal centre I have to get creative with my medicine at times. so i get to have a job that makes both sides of my brain happy 🙂 ).

    i think maybe i’d be a little less exhausted if i could just ignore my right brain. . .
    but right now i’m thinking instead of just going and getting a tabbed notebook. seems much more sensible than the 50 million pieces of scrap paper all over my house. . .

  25. Blunt

    I would read anything you wrote. You are by far one of the most interesting people i quasi know. The glasses look great. Have missed reading your perspective on this life. You should write a book about your life, the most interesting reads are the ones that are about the journey of somebodies life…I would read it…..I just finished reading The Choosing by Andrea Myers..its about the life of a girl i grew up with….Great post and loved one that had COMMENTS CLOSED on it……..zman sends

  26. This was just a huge topic in my office! Trying to teach an intern that he’s chosen the life of working all the time, for no money. Between piecing together enough jobs to pay the bills, to not being able to say no to awesome projects… I would give anything to be a sound sleeper. Sigh.

  27. Amen to both sister! I wasn’t cut out for that job and I knew it. seems much more sensible than the 50 million pieces of scrap paper all over my house. Sigh.

  28. WHOA! You pretty much described my life. Well except for the writing and the fact that I hate crafting. I found a link to this from Pinterest and it feels good to know that I’m not the only vividly colored insane person around here. I’ll have to check out more of your blog.

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