What kind of Creative Worker are you?

I recently went to Classic Game Fest in Austin as a guest speaker for video game audio and sound design. It was a fantastic weekend filled with retro gaming fun, nostalgia overload, and a soda vendor that gives you a copper mug with with unlimited refills. I’m not kidding about that last part.

And you can keep the mug!

 

We suggest mixing the orange with the vanilla.

Now, the main take away of my panel was the concept of sound and it’s fundamentals. What is a wave form? What are frequencies and how do they work? And since the convention was formatted for classic video gaming, I touched on the technical aspects of the Nintendo Entertainment System and how it goes about making sounds/music.

The second half of my talk consisted of some half baked theories that I have developed pertaining to creative work and how to function as a creative within a team or company. The interesting thing about this is that I spent less time on the latter discussion than the former, but most of my Q&A from the audience revolved around working, education, and the ideas I had presented concerning being a creative individual.

The question I respond with occasionally is, “what kind of worker do you think you are?” I reserve this question when people give me a blanket, “What is the best way do get stuff done?” inquiry.

Now, unless they understand the question I’m asking in return, I usually have to explain a bit of what I mean. It’s true! There are certain types of workers (at least in the creative field.) and that can really have an effect on how you “get stuff done.”

There are four different types of workers in my theory. To understand where you fall in this diagram you need to know the differences between Deadlines and Goals. These two factors play a large role in the life of the creative. People constantly speak of workloads, and quotas, and checkpoints; these two concepts are the balancing point of every creative individual with an adgenda.

Deadlines. This word. I’m personally upset that this word recieves such a bad rap. Deadline carries a negative connotation these days and a shoulder weight that can ruin a good Friday night. But deadlines are a MARVELOUS thing.

I define a deadline as “a marker that signifies the completion of work.” Pretty simple, right? However, too often people transform deadlines into these gigantic monsters that spell doom in the shape of an hour glass.

For any good worker, deadlines are important. They close the ambiguous cycle of work that otherwise would have no direction. The tasks for a deadline must be clearly defined, and they are usually concrete. Rarely do deadlines change on short notice.

The chief problem with deadlines is that people don’t realize its fundamental purpose:

Deadlines are for organizations.

Goals are a strikingly different beast. Goals aren’t so much organizational as they are personal. They are achievements or qualities that are built upon individual and/or group work.

Goals most commonly involve some kind of human or artistic growth within a creative. They are malleable and change over time depending on what motivates us. In a sense they could be viewed as the polar opposite to deadlines.

Goals are for people.

You will ease your mind and think differently about your work once you realize this simple idea.

Deadlines are for organizations. Goals are for people.

Once you understand this difference you can begin to form a picture of the kind of creative that you are (contracted, salary, whatever) by indentifying how you balance these two elements in your agenda.

The 4 types of creative worker

The Phenom is the top of the totem pole. The best players in the business are those that manage both deadlines and goals in tandem. They know how to get work done while still being able to facilitate personal growth.

I know you probably think highly of yourself, but I’m going to bet that you aren’t the Phenon…At least not yet! If you take yourself seriously as an artist you probably fall into one of the next two categories.

The Straight Shooter is one of the middle group workers. These individuals put aside creative growth to fall back on refined skill and ability. This allows for quick turn around providing a surefire completion of deadlines. The other individual, the Misguided Perfectionist, is the reverse. These creatives have a stronger need to explore their craft in new ways. They thrive on learning new things even if they don’t coincide with the work that is needed. The downside? They don’t like time constraints (deadlines), and commonly have self confidence issues with themselves and their work.

While these two types of workers could be viewed as equals, when it comes to “getting stuff done” organizations favor the Straight Shooter above the Misguided Perfectionist. Don’t fret! As you will learn, all of these types of thought are relavent.

The finally type of worker is the Underdeveloped Enthusiast. You can identify this type by name alone but let’s elaborate. This is where all creatives begin on their journey. They are fresh and inexperienced. They have burning passion but lack the core skills or knowledge necessary to have a creative agenda. They are fundamentally unequipped to tackle deadlines or goals.

The great thing about the Underdeveloped Enthusiast (U) and it’s subsequent iterations is their inevitable progressions. Like I mentioned previously, if you take yourself seriously as an artist your path will follow the diagram above. Understand this is a rather macro view for individuals, but the theory remains depending on how you handle deadlines and goals.

Companies, groups, and even self employed creatives must eventually realize their own game as a worker. Read my descriptions a second time and ask yourself,

  1. How often do I meet deadlines? If not someone else’s, what about my own?
  2. What do I think of my work when I MUST be finished with it?
  3. Has my knowledge/skills affected my ability to get things done?

If you are any of these types of workers you should be thrilled! They are a signification of your willingness to understand yourself better. Now that you have this new view, take into consideration your work agenda and coordinate your strategies to fit your creative styles.

If a round peg doesn’t fit in a square hole, why force it? Place yourself in the proper position that fits your level of work and when the time comes, assess how you handle these factors. Straight Shooters can become Misguided Perfectionists, and vise versa. Both of these can reach a level of Phenomonal work ethic. It’s all in how you perceive yourself as a worker.

I have found this particular theory useful in the long term goal of realizing oneself as a creative. In the grand scheme of things my developmental journey would ideally look something like this:

Inception of Passion — Building Core Skills — Centralizing Abilities — Finding

One’s Work Type — Removing the “Imposter” — Fulfilling Personal Potential

— Uplifting the Next Generation.

This single theory is but a stepping stone in the “life cycle” of a creative agenda. It’s eb and flow often changes relentlessly, but the seven pathways remain firmly placed throughout.

Navigating is indeed difficult. Part of this pilgrimage involves a search through oursleves in an attempt to know “who we are.” For in truth, only you will understand yourself better than others can. Once you have a greater relationship from within, your ability to maximize this potential for others becomes limitless.