When a friend of mine recently asked me if there’s anything I miss about the Midwest, the usual things came to mind. You know- family, friends, cashew chicken. I’m not gonna lie, the list isn’t overwhelmingly long. But after living in Northern California for the last ten years, one answer came to mind in a flash: I miss the thunderstorms.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a Midwestern thunderstorm or not, but they are incredible. Seriously, every attempt I’ve made at conveying how completely exhilarating these things are falls tragically short. Fingers of lightning flow across the sky, instantly cracking the night into day—and rolling, rumbling, thunder follows, sweeping in over you—rattling the whole house. As a kid, I would sit at the edge of the back porch, just inside the door frame, locked in awe as a storm would come and go. I do miss the thunderstorms.
Like one of those songs that conjures up goosebumps, the magnificence of a sky full of energy is absolutely inspiring, it can make your hair stand on end. Of course, the static charge that precedes a lightning bolt can also do that, so, you know… maybe we should back away from that door a little bit there, Sparky.
Be a Storm Chaser
Every Spring, groups of researchers, meteorologists, hobbyists, and thrill seekers head out in search of the atmosphere’s most fascinating storms. They aren’t over-concerned with all the hours and miles they’re investing. They’re not preoccupied with the logistics and the ROIs.
They realize that there’s a good chance they may not even see a storm develop at all. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, of the 100,000 or so storms that occur in the United States per year, only about 1,000 are significant. As the Midwest covers over 750 thousand square miles of land, the chances of driving into a storm and actually encountering something truly impressive are pretty small.
Whether driven by personal curiosity, a need for adventure, scientific investigation, or something else entirely — storm chasers all have one common denominator: passion. It’s the thing that gives them goosebumps. It impels them to ignore the odds, manage the logistics and push the limits of safety. It incites them to action, to get in its path, and smack right into one of the most beautiful and powerful forces nature has to offer.
Let’s be clear. Storms can feel uncomfortable. They’re beautiful, inspiring and worthy of our pursuit, but the truth is, they can also be pretty intimidating at times. In our line of work, the creative process itself can leave us feeling uneasy. We are in the business of challenging ourselves, our teams and our clients. We make our livings exploring problems, looking at things from diverse angles, gathering insights that often surprise us, rather than affirm what we thought we knew. All of this produces moments where fatigue, frustration, fear, and burnout can develop. It’s the nature of the storm.
The good news is when we feel that way—it means that we’re on the verge of adapting. And adaptation leads to looking at things in new ways. If you happen to be in one of those moments now, recognize it for what it is—a natural part of the creative process. Somehow, just knowing what you’re up against and remembering what’s on the other side can help you push through. It’s when you don’t feel the storm that you should be worried. If our hairs aren’t rising from the energy of our work, if we aren’t even a little bit uncomfortable, then that could mean our passion is at risk and we should take action.
After more than a decade of working as a visual designer, I believe that our best work comes with maintaining our love for the storm. And when we’re in the storm, when we immerse ourselves in our passion, constantly live in it, everything we see will influence our design approach. That includes the tough times, the self-doubt, the frustration and the concern for keeping our creative fire lit—all of that moves us to action. That’s when the new ideas start to roll in.
So, chase your storm. Your passion is your most valuable asset for the emergence of creativity.