Why Everything You Create Doesn’t Have To Be Stunningly Original, Shiny And New

For anyone who creates, there’s a pressure – usually that originates from within ourselves – to make sure that every new project is incredibly original and new.

image: virgilpix

We feel that unless what we create is different and better than everything we’ve ever created before (or, even, better than anything anyone ELSE has ever created before), that somehow we’re a failure, or not a “real” artist.

This isn’t very helpful, or realistic.

There’s nothing wrong with having ambition in your creativity. In fact it’s essential if you want to evolve and develop as an artist, and as a person.

But this evolution doesn’t demand that each new creative venture completely rewrites the rules, in the subject matter and in the actual form you create in.

In fact it’s very necessary that we DO revisit and recreate work that covers past themes and ideas. This is all part of our development.

If I could use a personal example for a moment:

A few years ago when I began writing creativity articles, I drew up a list of the main topic areas that people struggled with in creating. Themes such as procrastination, how to have ideas, how to find time to create, overcoming the inner critic, creating in isolation versus the benefits of a creative community, and so on.

Initially, I feared I would only be able to write a couple of dozen articles in total, at a time when I was reading that to get any kind of exposure online and build a reputation, you had to have hundreds of articles in circulation.

The realisation came to me one day that there is more than one way to write an article about procrastination. Or any other topic.

In fact, there are an infinite number of ways. And what happens when you write 5 then 10 then 25 articles on the same topic is that you enhance both your knowledge of the subject, and your ability to convey that knowledge in different ways to others.

You become an expert in writing by writing. And writing. And writing.

What it comes back to, in any creative form, is that you can only do so much theoretical learning and mulling over of ideas and planning.

The time comes when your evolution has to be through actually creating. Rolling up your sleeves, getting your hands dirty, and throwing some paint around. It’s the only way.

Sometimes you will come up with the seed of something that’s stunningly original and feels more exciting than anything you’ve created for a long time.

The danger then is to let this newness then develop into a pressure on yourself not to mess up, not to “waste” such an amazing idea, and as a result ending up so scared of going wrong and not doing the idea justice, you don’t do anything to develop the idea at all.

But whatever happens, you can, and will, create again.

If you have the greatest idea you’ve ever had, and at first attempt it doesn’t evolve as well as you’d hoped, then guess what? The idea is still there. You can try again, a slightly different way. In fact this original idea may be something you go on to explore in a dozen different new ways, or a hundred.

We all have themes in our artwork – the topics that are personal to us, that we always seem to return to. Again, the only way to explore these themes is to keep creating!

Realistically you can’t expect to explore a new theme or idea and the first project that comes from it is a perfect masterpiece.

It could happen, and that’s brilliant if it does. But it’s more likely that the third, or seventh, or thirty ninth, or two hundred and third exploration of that idea will be the one when you really start to feel you’re creating something wonderful and rewarding.

You can only get here by creating all the stepping stones along the way.

So the next time you tell yourself there’s no point in creating because you have no brand new ideas, remember that’s ok, that perfectly natural.

Take up the theme and the idea that’s most resonant and important to you at that moment, and create the best expression of yourself you can. With the pressure of always creating stunningly original and new artwork of your life removed, you might just create the most stunningly original and new artwork of your life.

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6 thoughts on “Why Everything You Create Doesn’t Have To Be Stunningly Original, Shiny And New”

  1. Dan, thanks for this one. At least once a week, this sneaking inadequacy creeps in.

    Whenever I sit down to write, a little voice says, “Why try, you have nothing new to say!” I needed this post as confirmation to keep going.

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  2. Thanks Damien.

    Another element I didn’t really touch on in this article is that creating is a form of communication, a way to reach out and connect with others. The more ways you try to do that, the more likely it will happen. You can’t reach anyone if you don’t open your arms.

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  3. One interesting thing to remember is that different people respond to different arguments or analogies or formulations. If you write 20 different articles on procrastination, each one will resonate with a different group of people. So it’s not even wasted effort in the short term – it’s just speaking to the various groups in your audience.

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    1. Hi Jeffrey, thanks for your thoughts.

      Such a good point. Plus you also become more effective yourself in communicating in those 20 slightly different ways.

      I would add that as an artist or writer or blogger or anyone that is putting their work out into the world, people will find you when they’re at different stages of development in their lives, or different stages of readiness to connect with what you’re offering.

      So to go with your example about the procrastination article, you might write one about the first step to overcoming procrastination that one person will find a complete revelation, but others will know already so they might find more value in a more in depth article. And vice versa, the in depth article might be too impenetrable or complex for someone feel totally overwhelmed and just needing that first nudge or first step.

      By writing different articles at different angles and at different “entry points”, you spread your net wider in connecting with people.

      Thanks for your input. 🙂

      Dan

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  4. Hi Dan, thanks for this awesomely inspirational post! It’s exactly what I needed to hear. 🙂

    Just yesterday I was feeling frustrated that I needed to get a post published to stay on schedule. I had nothing in queue — no backup posts — so I had to write something. I was getting frustrated that nothing “good” was coming to me.

    Instead of sitting down and forcing myself to write something, I went for a walk, cooled down in a nearby stream, and suddenly found inspiration watching a crab climb a rock. I walked back home and wrote one of my most creative pieces in a long time… with the crab as the main theme!

    It’s incredible how if we don’t try to force things, if we just observe the world around us and what we’re feeling and experiencing in the moment, how easily we can find interesting and even thought provoking things to write about.

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    1. Hi Raam, I love this story, it happens to me all the time! Sounds so like me going off for a walk in the woods or by a stream too!

      There’s really never a shortage of ideas all around us as long we’re open to receiving them.

      Sometimes just getting started with something has so much power too. I’ve written plenty of creative writing or poetic pieces where I started out just writing whatever words come off the top of my head and then, a few sentences in, the words and themes start to form into something new and interesting. Then I just go back and edit, remove that whole lead in section of writing if necessary.

      No detail in life is too small to make an article or creative project from. We’ve just got to be willing to see that tiny detail.

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