Every creative person has demons. Not just one, mind you. Usually a personal assistant or two with horns and a trident poking him in the keister. It took me a while to notice, but it’s true. I had to travel way outside the ordinary into the depths of the extraordinary, where the visionaries stand and I observe. Only then could I see, that among the greatest of the greats, demons come standard issue. That behind every beautiful book, every zen blog, every brilliant entrepreneur, is a person with a demon he’s working on training–getting that demon to heel, sit, and listen. To obey rather than control. He wishes he could send them away. He can’t. They are necessary.
They’re the ones jumping up and down with the ideas. “The world says you shouldn’t write this–do it!” they’ll say. “Push the button! Push the button! Push the button!” “So what if everyone thinks you’re insane, you just cured cancer…”You can’t solve that problem by doing that! You can’t! You can’t! You can’t!! Try this. It’s so much more controversial…” They snicker. They goad. They pull at the deepest corners of the mind. They know just what buttons to push.
When they do, they provide the struggle that results in monumental solutions. The best writing. Creativity. Vision. Struggle that produces action no one else would take. Conflict generating great things.
I watch these creative greats at work. I study the results…their podcasts, books and blogs, their platforms, products and companies, when they create windmills that power villages in Africa, or generate amazing solutions, I am speechless. The results speak for themselves. Everything seems perfect, designed by superhumans. Unreachable for the normal person. How can I do any of that?
I turn around. My demon jumps up and down. I have one, too. I tell him to heel. “How can I live up to that?” I say. “How can my book be like that? How can I learn to do that in my business? How can I get my vision to change the world?” Bringing vision, individualization, and creativity to public education instead of fear, testing, and standardization–so that my students love coming to school each day again–it’s no easy task. It’s what I want to do. Those are the voices speaking to me.
Standing beside the greats, looking at the peak of my mountain way…over…there…It seems impossible.
My demon shakes his head. He gets me in trouble when he wanders off the beaten path. I have to find him. I go off the path. People give me the look, “Just do what you’re supposed to do and get the job done. Stop thinking so far outside the box. You’re insane…” In teaching, “Casey, you’re 10th step with a masters. Stop ‘solving’ problems. If they want you to balance on a circus ball, that’s what you do!” He jumps up and down. Bites at my pants leg. Chases a vision and brings it back to me. Drops it at my feet. I pat him on the head. “I’ll try.” I say. “I’ll do my best. I’ll be great.” We continue our walk on the obscure path. There are many paths to the top of the mountain.
My biggest epiphany: Everyone has demons. Every “successful” person. The most successful stop hiding them. They walk with them. And they act. In hiding demons, I don’t act. I watch and wait, accomplishing little, too busy worrying, telling demons to heel, missing the big idea. Acknowledge the demons. Let them off their leash. Just a little bit. Act. That’s when you see results.
Anyone can do it. In any field. Even me.
As I walk on the path, I converse with the others out walking their demons. My demon sniffs out another a mile away. He tugs on the leash and goes over, excited. The demons circle nose to behind, then they play. I don’t walk mine often. No matter how much I train him, he always does something embarrassing in public. No one wants to be embarrassed in public.
Some walk theirs daily. They show them off. It seems almost vogue to walk demons these days on a big studded leash. People walk demons who made them sick, who pushed them down, who lost fortunes, who broke their hearts. They walk together. They write books about them, they heel them at their side, and when the demon tugs a bit, they smile and say, “Bad demon. Heel.” and finish the conversation with me. Mine needs more obedience school.
I’m blessed. I meet a lot of people. Creative people. Visionaries. Entrepreneurs. One by one, I noticed their demons were writing the chapters of their books. Their blogs. Their business plans. Coming up with the ideas. I turn to mine. “Can you write?” He nods, wags, and points. There is a file on my desktop. All written. I never pushed the button.
I’ll keep up the training, and walk them more often so they heel more and poke me in the keister less. They drive my husband nuts. But then again, he has his own as a visionary, too. “Can’t you just think normally?” No. “Why can’t you do that logically?” I am. My logic is…different. “Don’t you have any common sense?” Not today. I just had a vision.
I ask myself. “Would you send them away for the chance to be normal? To think like everyone else?” The answer for me–and for the rest of the people I ask–is always, always a resounding no.