THE THIN LINE: The Root of Steamfunk, Steampunk and Sword & Soul

Ghetto Bird: Steamfunk Persona of Bryant O'Hara

Ghetto Bird: Steamfunk Persona of Bryant O’Hara

Creativity is defined as the process of generating new and original ideas. Creativity is the basic force for all invention, the bringing of a thing from concept to actualization and the determining of unique solutions to problems.

The creative person is marked by traits of originality, nonconformity and high levels of knowledge. When you bring forth a unique and effective solution to a problem; a solution that has not been thought of before in the way you thought of it, you are being creative.

Psychologists have tried to explain creativity with many theories. Among these are cognitive (creativity as a process that uses mental constructs and structures), behaviorist (the environmental and associative nature of creative ideas), psychoanalytic (creativity as a mental or personality disturbance), social (creativity as developed by schools and family) and personality (the possession – and manifestation – of personal creative traits).

Steam LadyCreativity is believed by many to be the ability to solve issues and find solutions by “accident” – while you’re trying out several methods, the best method or a solution to your issue arises out of “nowhere” and “by chance”, you discover something totally unique.

As a person who does not believe in coincidence or happenstance, I would suggest that the creative process is more a discovery of new relations between older known concepts and methodologies – using common things in uncommon ways – thus, the more experienced you are in a particular subject area, the more likely you are to consider creative solutions. In music, acting and in the indigenous African martial arts, we call this “improvisation”.

Some mistakenly believe the creative process is all about insight, a “sudden flash” – a moment of serendipity or divine intervention. The insight seems like a “sudden flash” because thought travels at a speed of twenty-four billion miles per second – you have accessed your experience at over one-hundred thousand times the speed of light, so of course it seems “sudden”, or as if the Creator hurled the idea down from heaven and deposited it in your head (would the creator, overseer, mother and father of every single organism in the multiverse have the time, or the inclination, to do such a thing?).

Is the speed of thought of all humans the same? No. Those who have suffered brain damage or who may have developmental issues – who are often described as “slow” or “delayed”, by the way (now you know why) – may think considerably slower, however, most of us think at close to the same rate.

REAL1Why, then, are some more creative than others? Because – as I stated earlier – they have more experiences to draw from…and because they have a creative personality.

Yes, there is a well-defined creative personality. Highly creative individuals and geniuses have marked similar traits and although every human being is creative in one way or the other, some individuals actually develop their creativity to such a high level that they are recognized as creative geniuses. All highly creative individuals possess certain common personality traits.


Highly creative people love to challenge themselves with complex situations and problems as this allows them to contemplate several possible solutions on their journey to discovering the best solution.


Highly creative people are open-minded and receptive to new ideas and possibilities; especially those that help them to move beyond traditional modes of thinking.


Creative geniuses are confident and possess strong leadership qualities – traits necessary to pioneer new possibilities and guide others along new paths of discovery.


Highly creative individuals are non-conformists, unconventional and consistently think “outside the box”.


Highly creative people are extremely intuitive and often seem to possess the ability to read minds. In actuality, they are simply in tune with – and knowledgeable of – the order of things and are thus able to predict people’s responses to various stimuli.


Creative geniuses are extremely sensitive, for without a well-developed sensitivity, it is not possible to feel and portray emotions through a creative work. A novelist must feel as his characters feel in order to write characters that feel real to the reader.


Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it gives verve to the creative genius. Highly creative people want to discover and learn new things and persistently ask questions, which is the fuel for creative growth.


Highly creative people have a broad and deep general knowledge, which they use in their creative pursuits. Most creative people are knowledgeable in several spheres of interest.


Marry a creative genius’ leadership qualities to his or her nonconformist personality and you will witness the birth of a person who possesses an intense independence of thought. Creative geniuses commonly move beyond norms and often have a distaste for anything they deem “the mainstream.”


The highly creative person commonly engages in world-building and cosplay. Creative people often engage in daydreaming and even if well-grounded, thrive on fantasies.


Highly creative people are often extremely critical – of themselves and of others.


The highly creative person has a prolific range of ideas.


Highly creative individuals are often selfish, possessing a “me first” attitude. Many are narcissists or possess an extreme egoism, although they can be very generous and may not reveal their egoism for social reasons. Many even transcend the Self and work for greater causes and the common good.


Creative individuals have a love for the new and the unique and move beyond established ideas to find something radically different.


Most creative geniuses quickly grow bored with order or any predictable course of events – a reason why many creative adults were rebellious as children in school and / or at home. They have a love for disorder, unpredictability and the unknown.


As individuals for whom freedom of thought and expression is paramount, highly creative people often have a love for the ambiguous – when there are two or more ways to explain a problem.


Creative geniuses are often driven by a sense of higher purpose. They are self-aware and enlightened and many believe there is a divine purpose for their existence.

The ‘Thin Line’ Myth

Screamin' Jay HawkinsOne belief that permeates Black communities throughout the United States – and used to be one of my pet peeves – is that there is the existence of “the Thin Line”. When the discussion of genius comes up among a group of Black people, more often than not, someone will proclaim “You know, there’s a thin line between genius and insanity.” I used to become furious when I heard this because it seemed to be an attack on – and discouragement of – genius. After all, who the hell wants to be insane? Many brilliant and creative Black youth I went to school with would deny their genius or dumb themselves down around others who were not quite as intelligent as them.

Fortunately, the people in my neighborhood – from the gangbangers to the respected business owners – encouraged me to embrace my creativity and intelligence. Even the nicknames they gave me – “Professor”; “Mr. Spock”; “Braniac” – were complimentary of my intelligence and creativity. Once, however, the leader of one of the local gangs decided to give me a warning – “You’re smart as hell, Professor. I love that about you. Stay smart…but don’t get too smart, or you’ll end up in Bobby Wright (a mental health facility in Chicago).” “Why would I end up there?” I inquired. His answer? You guessed it – “Because there’s a thin line between genius and insanity.”

That was not the first time I heard that statement and it certainly would not be the last.

While I grew up rejecting that statement as total male bovine poop (i.e. bulls**t, for those whose thoughts travel at a substantially slower speed than 24 billion miles per second), my study of personality, cognizance and creativity has revealed that highly creative individuals are, indeed, prone to mental disorders. In fact all creative geniuses may be vulnerable to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and creativity itself is now considered by psychologists to be a sort of neuroticism.

However, even though creative geniuses have a propensity towards mental illness, their creative outlets are powerful tools that help to maintain sanity. Thus, considering the inbuilt defense mechanisms that most Steampunks, Steamfunkateers and other highly creative people have, it is most unlikely that such people would actually go stark raving mad.

20130223_095541Because, in most cases, creative geniuses are not afraid to stretch their minds, thoughts and behavior beyond limits that the less creative can fathom, they are branded as “weird” or “eccentric”. Such brilliant people, however, are extremely strong-minded due to their self-awareness and independence.

In fact, the creative genius exercises his or her creativity and exorcises madness, as he or she continually stretches mental limits to maintain creative pursuits.

So keep up that cosplay…keep on telling those Steamfunk tales…keep killing those orcs, leopard men and oga’koikoi…

Claim your genius…proclaim your brilliance…own your creativity…

Because the mind is a terrible thing to waste.

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link, Rite of Passage: Initiation and Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at He is author of eight novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika; a Fight Fiction, New Pulp novella, Fist of Afrika; the gritty, Urban Superhero series, A Single Link and Wrath of the Siafu; the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe and the “Choose-Your-Own-Destiny”-style Young Adult novel, The Keys. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis and co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo. You can reach him on Facebook at; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at

7 responses »

  1. nrgalloway24 says:

    Reblogged this on Inspiring articles, blogs and prompts and commented:
    Great pic. Really gets the ideas flowing.

  2. Jessica Burde says:

    For years, my creativity has been on of the things KEEPING me sane. Genius may often come with neuroticism but IMO it’s FRUSTRATED genius that leads to insanity. The same way that muzzling or silencing anything central to someones personality can lead to insanity.

    Great post, and hope more people will open up about to their own genius and creativity.

  3. Ruth DJ says:

    Great post! I think that if you try to submerge your creative genius, that’s what will drive you to insanity, because you can’t help but try to let it out. Conformity is not a good thing for creative people. Being stuffed into a box of other people’s expectations and not allowed to express your God-given talents, it’s enough to drive anyone insane.

    • Balogun says:

      Thanks, Ruth! I concur – conformity, suppression and oppression of any type can, most certainly, damage the victims’ mental faculties.

  4. Ray Dean says:

    What I love about these posts of yours, Balogun, is this great introspective vibe… the way I feel that you’re letting us get in your head and see the process… truly inspiring 😀 Thanks/Mahalo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s