The absolute worst thing for creativity is repetition. Repetition is wonderful for developing skills, learning how to do something really well, but it kills creativity. Repetition allows the creative parts of the mind to shut down. It sort of kicks back, flips on the TV, and watches five hours of Singing and Dancing Chef Models while the rest of your brain does the heavy lifting of accomplishing the task you’ve set out for yourself.
Whether it is in writing, drawing, or anything that relies upon unique ideas, repetition destroys creativity. This blog suffers from the same affliction of many others, using the “X Things that Do Y” format for blog posts. It is a wonderful model, usually sets up the post to be a reasonable length, it works well for search engine optimization since the “Ways to Cook Toast” or “Products that Remove Bird Droppings” are the exact types of terms people search for. The mold is set and now all the writer has to do is fill in the blanks. The only real moment of creativity occurs at the outset when developing the core idea.
Other writers fall into this same type of trap, writing the same type of characters, the same situations they always write about without ever leaving the rut. They have good reason not to leave the rut, especially if their work has an audience. Why leave the rut if the rut goes exactly where we want to go? The only reason to do so is to stretch ourselves, provide ourselves with a challenge. Make our creative minds earn their living instead of leaving their Dorito crumbs all over our medula oblongata.
Creative peoples of the web, take up this challenge with me. Let’s break the molds we’ve been using to create content and try something new. Build new molds, force ourselves outside of our safety zone and do new things. Think in new ways. In a Dead Poet’s Society sort of way, let’s climb on top of our desks and see the world of our art, our works, in a new perspective. We can use a different medium, a different format, a different basic concept, but let it be something previously untried.
The reasons not to mess with tried and true ways of creation are many.
God help us if we screw up the SEO of our blogs. New unique content isn’t worth disrupting the way Google finds our information. Of course, new and unique content seems to surface all the time without much SEO help, so one or two posts that go off in a wild direction shouldn’t hurt too much, should it?
Time is another reason not to do this. We already know how long it takes us to write 500 to 1,500 words for a blog post with an hour or two of research. We already know how long it takes us to write a song, draw a cartoon, or bake a loaf of bread. Suddenly, by not following our patterns, using our molds, we have no idea how long it may take to craft the fifteen haikus necessary to instruct someone how to upload videos to You Tube, write a disco version of a zombie apocalypse song, or bake a type of bread we’ve only just discovered on the web that could be just a left over April Fool’s joke.
Messing with the expectations of the audience is incredibly dangerous. Our readers come to our blogs, our web comics, our bakeries (I’m a bit hungry so this food thing keeps slipping in), for a particular type of content or product. Yet, even they get a bit complacent about the content? When we see “5 Ways to Save Money on Giraffe Care” we pretty much know exactly what to expect, especially if it is coming from our favorite giraffe blog and this is the xteenth time the blog covered the costs of giraffe care. We might not even bother reading that post this time around because we already sort of know the information. Bland, dull, routine information does build a following, but it doesn’t excite, energize, or evoke emotion from the readers.
We need to be disruptive to our own processes. Yes, manufacturing content can be very industrial, very efficient, and very financially rewarding. At what cost, though? At what point does the creative mind become a complete Jabba-esque slug recycling the same garbage to us to the point we lose the ability to even determine if something is unique or just garbage.
Speaking personally, change is difficult. I like my ruts. They are ruts for a reason, they are my ‘best practices’. Do best practices ever become shackles, preventing us from expanding our horizons, and building upon our abilities? Do best practices ever become outdated and in need of a freshening? Do they take into account new methods?
Here are a few ideas that will help spark new ideas:
Think Retro. Write your blog post in longhand if you normally write it out on the computer. If you are a graphic artist, pick up some art supplies and try a different medium. Do whatever it takes not to rely upon technology to create.
Be Absurd. Draw using robots or create something that makes no sense outside of the piece itself. Try writing a blog post using only stream of consciousness. Or create something while pretending to be an alien trying to communicate a complex idea using only pictographs as drawn by your toddler.
Switch Mediums. One of the most clever episodes of TV I ever saw was the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where the show turned into a musical. Changing the medium of creation is by far the quickest, easiest way to change the perception of the subject.
At least once in awhile, if we don’t break the molds, let’s set them aside and attempt to do something different. Yes, we may actually end up just creating a new mold from which we’ll mass produce content, but it will at least keep our creative minds active enough they won’t completely atrophy into something that can no longer imagine what a peanut butter bread might taste like. Okay, I really should go get some food.