"I hope I'm becoming more eccentric. More room in the brain." --Musician Tom Waits

A number of artists acknowledge that being unconventional is something positive.

Reese Witherspoon has said her parents supported her ambitions to be an actress, and that, growing up in Nashville, "Being a Southern eccentric was the big influence in my family. The standard was, How weird can you be?"

Many people considered gifted and talented may be viewed as eccentric, based on personal style or behavior that, like their talent, is outside social norms.

According to historian Daniel J. Boorstin, for example, Beethoven's apartments numbered more than 60, as he kept moving on to a new one, as Boorstin mentioned in his book "The Creators."

Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist, commented in an interview that during the previous nine years the longest she has been in one place was three weeks.

Such a propensity for unusual living arrangements is one signal of being an eccentric, according to neuropsychologist David Weeks in his book "Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness."

The title is indicative of mainstream society's ambivalence about those at the outer edges - a society which has historically relegated people with unappreciated or suspect talents to the fringes of the culture in ways, if not to involuntary residence at an institution.

Vincent Van Gogh commented about some of the negative attitudes he experienced: "What am I in the eyes of most people, a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person - somebody who has no position in society and will never have.. I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody has in his heart."

In a newspaper interview, writer Michael Dwyer commented on another kind of social reaction to eccentric individuals: "Several people warned me about Tim Burton. He is decidedly eccentric, they whispered, totally wrapped up in his wild imagination, and consequently, very difficult to interview."

But Dwyer went on to say, "Perhaps they were confusing the man with his movies, because they got it all wrong. Burton proved to be delightful, very talkative and bubbling with enthusiasm, when we met recently in London."

People have commented about the director of The Lord Of The Rings series, Peter Jackson, that he is "a bona fide eccentric who shows up for interviews without shoes and socks while looking more like a Hobbit than a human."

Thankfully, Burton and Jackson have exploited their "wild imaginations" for the pleasure of many of us.

For those who are talented and able to engage their choice and willingness to follow their unique visions - even at the risk of being labeled strange, weird or eccentric - their aliveness and health may be enhanced.

Dr. Weeks declares that, far from being aberrant and unhappy, eccentrics "experience much lower levels of stress because they do not feel the need to conform."

Another example is inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen. A British newspaper article profiled him as a "visionary oddball" who still manages to stand out as a true brilliant eccentric.

The self-taught multimillionaire is holder of more than 150 patents and is the recipient of dozens of honorary doctorates. And he holds "the world record for the longest uninterrupted period of wearing denim."

Maybe we can all more passionately follow our own unique visions and contribute our talents by being as eccentric as we want to be.

Author's Bio: 

Douglas Eby writes about the psychology of creative expression and personal growth. His site has a wide range of articles, interviews, products and other resources to inform and inspire: Talent Development Resources. Visit talentdevelop.com