André Gide, French author and Nobel Prize winner in Literature, once espoused that “the most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.” This is particularly true when it comes to the very essence of creative pursuits.
Take writing, drama, acting, painting, poetry, sculpture or any such creative occupation, and one is bound to see Madness at play; Madness being an essential, perhaps the most important creative ingredient. After all, isn’t it true that when we focus on just the intellect, we say ‘genius’, but when that intellect is melded with a dash of eccentricity, we say ‘mad genius’? In this subtle difference, lies the rub.
Look into history, and you see Madness manifest itself in all its glory. Take Lady Gaga for instance. It’s not just her music which gets talked about. It’s also the accompaniment of the entire retinue of crazy bells-and-whistles: the outrageous costumes, the suggestive choreography, the need to shock and awe. Would a sane person display such levels of creativity? And then there are those who’ve put themselves at harm thanks to their Madness Quotient. Sylvia Plath went ahead and offered her head to an oven. Van Gogh’s genius ultimately led to him severing his own ear. Now, am not advocating that just because one is creative, one is also prone to self-flagellation. But it’s this ‘manicness’ which is quintessential to most creative people. Indeed, sometimes the more schizoidal you are, the more creatively fertile you might tend to become.
Anyway, this is not a post to discuss Cognitive Dissonance and Behavioral Nuerosciences. This is just a humble reminder to everyone that in today’s straitjacketed world of stereotyped cookie-cutters, a splash of Madness in a person should never be underestimated.
I speak from my own experiences in the field of Advertising. As a creative (and one who is a self-anointed lunatic), one has met and worked with a host of colleagues and clients, suppliers and partners. And one has always been more attracted to the oddballs. These are those people for whom lateral thinking emerges out of their sheer ability to remain disconnected. Less method + more madness = big idea, in a nutshell. But these people have also been painted with varied brushes of disrespect. Some are tainted with that cliche of ‘s/he has an attitude’. Some are brushed aside as being ‘loony’. Others are ever so slightly venerated as ‘being different’. Yes, these people are not what you would expect to be the classic corporate types. They don’t wear their brands on their chin, more likely wear their vodkas and pot on their breaths. Yet, in their pursuit to remain grungy if one may, they display a creative intellect and a clarity of vision that belies how they look and act. It is almost as if not taking care of conforming or being a non-conformist leads them to create uncompromisingly brutal, yet beautiful advertising.
And yet, most of these people are derided. They are almost considered to be pariah. Museum pieces not to be displayed in front of suave clients, who would be put off by this ‘so called mad animal’. But, look at what they create. Pieces of work and communication, which, even if you were locked in a room for a year, would find hard to imagine, or even come close to realizing.
So agencies, revel in your mad people. Recognize them, nurture them, pander to their flights of eccentricity. Just don’t expect them to be either black or white. There is a beauty in gray, and that is the chaos that eventually creates a cosmos.
I end with a quote from Miguel de Cervantes. “Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”