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6527212 April 06, 2010

Hope Can Set You Free: Antwone Fisher

"What are the stereotypes? I know so many creative people who are so vastly different."

Since January I've interviewed an overflowing handful of gifted folks. Perhaps those few fail to statistically represent all creatives but hopefully they provide insight into the hearts and minds of this fascinating group.

Unfortunately, one thing I've learned through the exercise is that I'm as guilty as the next guy of having a few preconceived notions about creatives. There are certainly many similarities yet, in reality, there exist vast differences.

One of the main variations that stands out for me is childhood experience. Not every creative person had a difficult, tough, or downright tragic childhood. I continue to wonder how having such a start has molded many of us, and how that might impact the innate creativity we have. Yet I see more and more that we're all unique.

In the end, perhaps it comes down to:

  • How we experience life, whatever our world may be
  • How we breath stimuli in, assess it, and assimilate it into who we are
  • What we take from our experiences and what we ultimately seek to give
Perhaps it's a breathtaking, complex mix of genetics and destiny that brings us together.

My guest today, Antwone Fisher, has a remarkable story. When I read his memoir, Finding Fish, it instantly jumped onto my short list of favorites. I fell in love with it not only because his story is so inspiring but also due to the way he expresses it--the way he relays his experiences and how he shows us who he was and who he became. In 2002, despite his lack of notoriety, Antwone's story managed to emerge as a powerful movie that marked the directorial debut of Denzel Washington.

I wasn't surprised.

Many of us have demons that vary in shape, size, density, etc. whether from the bowels of childhood or from more recent adult experiences--aberrations we long to forget. Yet often they ultimately drive us forward. Antwone's story and his ongoing courage expresses the very heart of Aberration Nation.

In reading his responses, I sense that he has done the work of forgiving and letting go. Now he marches on to the beat of his own personal drum, which seems to ring out with a tune of quiet strength.

His new book, A Boy Should Know How to Tie a Tie, will be released on April 20th. I can't wait to read it. I'm sure that whatever Antwone has to share about succeeding in life is valuable not only for boys, but also for me and you.

What's your story (in a nutshell)? How did you end up where you are today? Are you surprised by where you are, or
did you always see it coming?

I was born to an incarcerated teen mother and placed in foster care until she was to claim me. She never did. My father died two months before I was born and neither family (my mother's or my father's) knew that I existed.

In the foster home, I endured physical, emotional and sexual abuse and as an adult, I had to learn to overcome the anger I had as a result of how I was treated as a child. I have lived my life day by day so I am not surprised by where I am nor did I see it coming.

It all happened gradually and with lots of work.

With regard to your current focus in life, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

When I was a teen, I was emancipated from foster care and I ended up homeless. At one point, I went to live with the daughter of my foster mother and I realized I was right back where I started, so I had to do something about it.

I went back to being homeless, then I saw a sign that read, "Join the Navy and see The World." It changed my life.

What are your thoughts on the stereotypes that creative people sometimes fall into?

What are the stereotypes? I know so many creative people who are so vastly different.

Do you believe being creative has caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

My creativity, my imagination, my ability to reason is what has saved me and helped me endure.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

No, I have been surrounded by people who have always encouraged my creativity.

So far, the majority of those I've interviewed about creativity say that the internal question of, "Am I truly creative or do I just think I am?" has never crossed their mind. Is this true for you? Am I the only one who has, at times, wondered if I'm just kidding myself?

I have always been an artist in some way. I thought I would become a paint important paintings, but now I paint with words. I never thought of myself as anything other than a creative person.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Which of your dreams have come to pass and what do you dream about now?

I dream of directing great films. I started thinking about that a few years ago. I just finished the editing on a short film that I wrote and directed. So ... I can't imagine that I won't direct films in the future.

I often wonder about the similarities and differences creative people have in terms of thought processes. Is there one method or way that you get most of your ideas, and if so, can you describe that? If not, can you tell us a little bit about how your mind works?

Many of my inspired thoughts come from music, but I also get ideas from being outside and feeling the breeze cross my face. The ocean inspires me. After all, I am a sailor.

What are the top three characteristics highly creative people need to be successful, in your opinion?

I need a clutter-free work environment, the belief that I can do or say anything and pull back later if I must and the freedom to dream.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

A quote from the Shawshank Redemption movie poster, "Fear Can Hold you Prisoner; Hope Can Set You Free."

The thought allows me to get over any apprehension I may have.

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