Being Avant Garde: How to Pull Off the Creative Life

Jeff Winke By

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Creative people exude a sense of the creative. There is a style subtext to everything they do.
Some appear to live the creative life effortlessly.

Everything appears to contribute and help define an aesthetic that reflects a life lived as art. Everything is simple, beautiful, and just right for the moment. The cover from an unwanted fashion catalog gets absentmindedly folded into a square before being tossed into the recycling bin. But the folded square becomes a coaster for a freshly mixed mojito randomly poured into a Mason jar topped by a fresh sprig of mint.

The serendipitous coaster, mason-jar mojito with fresh mint look like they belong together in the world. One could imagine this everyday still life in the studio of a modern dancer, digital artist, off-Broadway playwright, or indie film director. Those living the creative life somehow create confluences of spontaneous coolness. Stuff happens. And when it happens, it looks inventive, unusual, and freshly creative.

Creative people exude a sense of the creative. There is a style subtext to everything they do. Creative wannabes and those yearning to join the creative strata of society will want to study the following. Documented below are just five artifacts of the avant-garde life:

1. A cool hat—One can not live a creative life with a bare head. Berets are a bit trite, but some can still pull them off. Try a fez (without the tassel), a Fidel military cap, a bluesman fidora, plain baseball cap (no plastic webbing and adjustable plastic strap), or even a newsboy cap.

2. A good luck amulet—It takes good luck to be creative. A coin (preferably foreign or ancient), smooth stone, smooth piece of sandglass, subway token, or bingo chip. The most powerful talismans are round. The circle is eternal and lucky.

3. The grand project—Be involved in something big. Matter-of-factly mention the Pergolesi-inspired opera you're composing, the two-story tree-house retreat your designing in the Louis Henri Sullivan style, the 60-sonnet poetry collection you're writing, or the loft-size triptych of Buenos Aires-inspired oil paintings.

4. The latest eyewear—Even if you don't wear eyeglasses, get a pair with plain glass. The frames must be the latest style and clearly what most people might look at when choosing new frames, but quickly dismiss with the thought "I could never pull this off." Pshaw! You will pull it off with style.

5. Wear a mix of resale and new clothes—Thoughtfully mix up your clothes with flamboyant, ugly, ill-fitting vintage pieces and sharp, tailored new clothes. It should look as though your clothes just happened upon you. Too much resale and you'll look homeless. Too much tailored new stuff and you look like a dandy if you're a guy or a fashion snob if you're a lady. Shoes are important. Go for boots-work boots, old riding boots, go-go boots, rubber waders... Opt for clunky, comfortable, and casual.

The key to living the creative life is adopting the right attitude, which should be that the world is a stage and you're the star of your own drama. As the star, people will look at you. Your friends will shake their heads in admiration while saying, "There goes (fill in your name) s/he's so creative." Those you think don't get it, actually do on a deep viral level. They may shake their heads in disgust, but deep down they are wrestling with their own self-doubt and envy. They yearn to be as creative and cool as you.

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