“Several people warned me about Tim Burton. He is decidedly eccentric, they whispered, totally wrapped up in his wild imagination, and consequently, very difficult to interview.” Writer Michael Dwyer.
For people like director Tim Burton, who are highly talented and willing to be eccentric and follow unique visions, their creative work may be enhanced, along with sense of self and emotional health.
(Photo: with Helena Bonham Carter, on the set of “Sweeney Todd”; quote from my article Eccentricity and Creativity.)
But willing to be out of synch, unique – or more loaded names like strange, weird, deviant or abnormal – may involve the courage to withstand unfriendly or even hostile reactions, and go against cultural forces that encourage conformity.
Burton commented about his early life: “I think the atmosphere that I grew up in, yes, there was a subtext of normalcy. I don’t even know what the word means, but it’s stuck in my brain. It’s weird. I don’t know if it’s specifically American, or American in the time I grew up, but there’s a very strong sense of categorization and conformity.
“I remember being forced to go to Sunday school for a number of years, even though my parents were not religious. No one was really religious; it was just the framework. There was no passion for it. No passion for anything. Just a quiet, kind of floaty, kind of semi-oppressive, blank palette that you’re living in.” [imdb.com]
Psychologist Timothy So notes in his article Positive Abnormality that “many great names in history, such as Benjamin Franklin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, and still many others, all recognized their own strength and interests, believed they are unique and enjoyed being unique.”
He adds that they “put extra efforts to make their dreams come true, to impact society positively. They are as ordinary as any Tom, Dick, and Harry in many ways. The only way they are different from others is that they believe that they are unique and daring enough to stand out from the crowd, think outside the box, and choose to go on a path that those with a self-limitation are afraid to choose.
“We might not be achieving as much as these great people did, but if we believe that we are special and not the same as everyone, and are confident that we are capable to do things we are really good at, success and happiness could be there awaiting us. If we have the courage to explore, we could experience the different amusements of existence.”
Health may also be a benefit of being abnormal. Neuropsychologist David Weeks posits in his book “Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness” that, far from being aberrant and unhappy, eccentrics “experience much lower levels of stress because they do not feel the need to conform.”