DO Cross The Streams

Dr. Egon Spengler: There’s something very important I forgot to tell you.

Dr. Peter Venkman: What?

Dr. Egon Spengler: Don’t cross the streams.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?

Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.

Dr. Peter Venkman: I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, “bad”?

Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

Dr Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

I appreciate the timely and prescient advice of Dr. Spengler in the 1984 movie classic Ghost Busters, particularly in the use of particle accelerators when battling ghostly hoards. However, when it comes to the daily battles most of us are likely to encounter, I am obliged to express my dissenting opinion. You MUST cross the streams.

For most of the first two decades of my business career, I bifurcated my interests between “professional” and “creative.” In retrospect, this was a big mistake and a root cause of much unnecessary tension in my life.

I am a poet AND a business professional, and I realized rather late in the game the benefit of crossing these streams. Now I am a shameless and impassioned advocate for the poetic voice as an integral player in an integrated life. 

But what does this mean, practically speaking? A few things. Mainly it means that I apply whatever strengths I have in any area to whatever task is ahead of me. It means taking a strengths-based approach to my life.

When I sit down at my desk to think through the design of a fundraising campaign or annual appeal or donor stewardship plan for a nonprofit organization (my “day job”), I draw on the same set of creativity skills that I use to write a poem. The same exact ones. I used to think I had to approach business writing from a different part of my brain. It works better now for me, because I am drawing on creative brain matter that is wired very well for conceptual design work.

I’ve always been a decent “dot-connector” in the context of technical design work, but allowing myself to fully draw on my poetic brain, I have freed up constraints which allow me to see a greater range of dots to be connected. The very trait that makes me a poet is also that which allows me to think strategically. This is a revelation to me – and useful to my employer, colleagues, and clients.

Also, with poetry, I now apply my project management skill set to getting published. I used to think of writing poetry as “special” – so I approached poetry only through that “special” creative part of my brain. Sure, I wrote a lot, but only I and a few dear (patient) friends were reading what I cranked out. With the application of a broader skillset learned mainly through business, my poems are more polished and reaching more readers.

Not everyone is a poet, but most people have diverse interests in life that sometimes feel like they are competing. I would encourage you, if you feel the tension between such interests, to start crossing the streams. Look at how the strengths in one area of your life can inform and complement another. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to hide huge swaths of who you are in your day job. Let down the walls between your competencies. Give it a try, even for a day, and see what difference it makes.

2 Replies to “DO Cross The Streams”

  1. You’re so right, Kelly: unification, not compartmentalization. :- ) I’ve seen this in my own life. I used to be a catalogue copywriter for an educational film company. I got very good at describing videos both concisely (~100 words) and informatively for a variety of audiences. For a long time I felt lacking, though, because I had no formal marketing education. My boss told me he hired me in part because I was a poet / language-lover and that he would not have been so keen on hiring me if I’d had an ad agency background. He saw the value in language skills and wasn’t blinded by what credentials a copywriter “should” have. (He also launched me into haiku, which i’ve been writing ever since.)

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