My Shoes & Hats

After a very productive start to my new year’s blogging, I’ve ground to a halt. I got busy in the past few days with…well, a lot. Like a lot of people, I do a lot of different things, which reminded me of the work of Edward De Bono, a writer on subjects of creative thinking whose work I’ve learned quite a bit from. 

He has two books that are related, one called Six Thinking Hats and the other is Six Action Shoes. If you Google the titles you’ll find a few summaries online or click the links; plenty of used copies on Amazon mean you could pick up both book for around five bucks plus shipping. Without getting into considerable details, both books illustrate an important idea – that you can’t think or act the same way in all situations. 

De Bono creates a nice metaphor of hats and shoes that serve as a reminder that sometimes we need to wear the ‘black hat’ of critical thinking and at others wear the ‘yellow hat’ of positive thinking, for example. He discusses these different modes for both thought and action and after getting the gist of De Bono’s idea you might find yourself in a situation where you say to yourself something like “Okay, time for the black hat.” 

For me, even just the past few days have reminded me of the different roles I play and how differently I approach them. IFor example, since Friday….

1) I shot a video interview with an effects supervisor on the film The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Shooting the video required being the tech guy setting up the equipment, a manager dealing with my son Shane, and an producer / editor making sure I got the material I needed to be able to put the story together.

2) I was a reporter, breaking news about Ann Coulter and potential voter fraud on the Huffington Post. As a marketing person, I promoted the story on Twitter and by emailing it to important bloggers I know.

3) As a comedy writer, I posted a piece on based on a weird idea I had about a Disney version of Slumdog Millionare. As a graphic artist, I mocked up a fake poster to go along with the story. 

I’m really leaving out a lot but you get the idea. We’re entering a new era for creative people where wearing just one job hat won’t do for many if they want to be successful. Musicians and poets need to also be computer experts and sales people. Programmers need to be market researchers and graphic designers. 

Of course, they don’t really NEED to…but it’s getting tougher and tougher to succeed if you are having to rely on other people.

The pace and pressue of this change is enourmous. One way I keep sane is by not trying to be ‘myself’. I realize that different roles require different skills and I relish the change. When I write a fact based story like the Coulter piece, I go into logical, methodical, clear explanation mode. If it’s an opinion piece, I switch between a focus on facts and on my inner sense of the truth of the matter is in spiritual sense. When I write comedy for, I let myself go crazy, turn off my inner critic, experiment and really trust my own instinct of what’s funny to me.

So, who are you? How do you change yourself from project to project? And who do you need to learn to be in order to take your own work to where you want it to go?


  1. Not just creative types are going through this, all jobs are due to the economy.

    The good news I think for creative types is that the answer is simply getting back to basics, and doing what they did earlier in their career, when they were economically forced to multitask, and wear not only artistic hats, but business ones as well. So for most successful creative types, they have already been down this road in some form.

    The people who will suffer will be the non creative types who are now forced to step into roles that they never had to fill before and multitask them.

    According to Carnegie Melon, half the new jobs being created are in the creative sectors, these are the jobs that cant be outsourced or reduced to a computer program, and that trend remains even in this economy. When all is said and done, creative jobs will come out of this mess stronger than they have in 50 years.

    And the same skills of wearing many hats will keep creative types flexible enough to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.

  2. Lee, thanks for raising this issue–it certainly resonates for me.

    I work as managing editor of a publishing company. When I wear my publishing “hat” I’m creative in practical ways, organized, methodical in shepherding projects and authors towards deadlines.

    As a writer, I’m dreamy, elliptical, more often interested in the journey than in the destination. Willing to follow my curiosity into unmapped byways.

    Until I begin editing, when logic, clarity, an eye for shape, structure and form come to the forefront.

    And then there’s my very right-brain business as a clairvoyant consultant. 🙂

    What’s constant across each of these roles is my inner being, but you’re right, it’s engaged at different levels in each of these roles.

    And each one gives voice to some part of me.

    I find, though, that if I change “hats” too often in a single day, I get cranky and crabby and must retreat to a no-role zone to get back to myself.

    Thanks for a thoughtful, insightful post!

  3. Yeah, it’s easier for me to compartmentalize, too. In fact, after the relative stress of getting the news piece right the comedy piece felt like blowing off steam. It wasn’t even a plan to write…it just came out of me.


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