The Double Curse of Intelligent, Creative People
Gideon C du Toit

Wow. There’s so much to unpack. Where to begin…

To me, the concept and understanding of intelligence is a “how-long-is-a-piece-of-string” problem. It’s extremely hard to generalise and nail down. For example. There are people incapable of holding an intelligent conversation about the state of the world, politics, finance, climate, space, etc, and who probably are also functionally innumerate, but who are genius at managing relationships. They can handle interpersonal dynamics effortlessly and fluidly and can easily direct the most diverse personality types to a mutually beneficial outcome for their family unit or community, but don’t ask them to balance a budget or change a tyre. There are people who thrive in a problem-solving environment, and for whom, a constant deluge of new problems is just a bigger, more exciting challenge to work through and win at. Others, like myself (and like you, as I can infer) take life’s problems personally, and should never be in a problem-solving role because the emotional atrophy experienced while being at the coalface will kill us. Literally. Some people are highly intelligent at operating vehicles, weapons, or computers but have no interpersonal intelligence at all. I could go on and on. My point is I have walked the path of trying to pigeonhole myself, only to find that pigeonholes are lonely, sad, places, and more importantly, they stubbornly resist permanent occupation. Life will throw curveballs and shake us out of our labels. We have to get in the game, even if its obvious that some of the other players are not even in our league.

We have to face the petty bureaucrats who are needed in every industry to ensure the orderly processing of whatever that industry concerns itself with. Someone with a chip on their shoulder and possibly a point to prove, will be part of receiving your manuals and processing them for submission and publication. Petty bureaucrats register your copyright claims. etc. etc. And.. writers of pulp fiction and shallow non-fiction will always be around. Lazy people want to read lazy books. So there will always be sub-par, lazy writers for lazy writing. Their readers don’t want to think hard or work hard to do their reading. And before we villify the poor reader even further, that laziness could be a knee-jerk reaction to the stresses and strains of being a modern parent in this crazy world. Most people are too tired to strain through heavy reading. But I don’t know enough about the world of writers and writing to give you weighty advice that would substantially help.

So let me share from personal experience.

I have made up my mind that I am a photographer. It’s obvious (with hindsight) from the arc of my life, that I have spent my free time obsessing with learning everything I could about my craft. I have a knack and an “eye” for the game, but to begin with I was terrible.

Unfortunately, like all of us, my innate hubris didn’t agree, initially. But now after many years between me and my first thoughts of winning a pulitzer, I have grown to realise that initially I was crap.
My photos were pathetic even though I felt that each one was worthy of hanging in a gallery. Age, experience, and 10000 hours of learning and refining my craft means that now I take vastly better photos than I used to when I first began. The problem is I still “feel” that I’m a better photographer than anyone else, but fortunately age, experience, and increased exposure to the work of properly great photographers helps keep hubris in its place.

I am intelligent. I am a polymath. I am smarter than most of my competitors now. But it has taken time, resolute self-belief, and tons of stick-to-it-iveness for me to get to a point where I can divorce that feeling of being better, from a more pragmatic and practical assessment of reality, where I can see, I’m no better. But what do they have that I don’t? Well, for one thing I am a loner and an introvert. This makes me difficult to work with, because I won’t just suddenly phone you up and chat about the clouds on the day because I suddenly had a whim to do so. This therefore makes me difficult to build a relationship with. And…business, success, winning the game, is built on relationships. Having a feeling of “being better” doesn’t help (not me anyway). It only builds the walls of isolation up higher. I am therefore learning to recognise that there are people with way inferior talent to me at the nuts-and-bolts level of my art, who will outperform me every day because they happen to be genetically blessed to be good at relationships whereas I am very much not. That’s a reality, a parameter I must learn to recognise and work around, work on, work through if I want to measure up to whatever metric means I beat the ones with inferior photographic abilities.

Bottom line — I recognise the feeling, I know what you are describing, and I agree that it feels hellishly frustrating. The truth of reality however, is, this universe is underpinned by survival of the fittest and competition is real. In the spirit of openness, I leave you with this.

What is my blindspot and weakness? Is it a technical issue? Is it a relational issue? Is it institutional or regulatory, etc? Next. Who am I? Can I leverage who I am to mitigate those failings? Or would that be out of character? If so, who can I build a relationship with who has those skills so we can focus on and harness our individual strengths for a common goal? To distill it all the way down, I am looking for a photographic agent to represent me now to handle the relationship things that I suck at. I can shoot all day any day anywhere, but don’t ask me to navigate the awkward silent spaces between people. Ugh.

Good luck! Keep chipping away at the problem. The final hammer blow is going to reveal a marvelous thing, like a graceful statue hidden in the imperfections and grain of a block of marble.