New year, new creative you?
Should old creative habits die hard, or be milked for all they’re worth?
January is typically full of resolutions to change and promises to be better – usually to ourselves, and more often than not, unfulfilled. But should we be making commitments to improve our creative skills and instincts in 2016? And if so, how?
As a society, we almost hero-worship the concept of change. Things should never stay the same, they must change – with the strong implication than innovation is inherently good because… well…. it’s new.
Meanwhile, we are taught that familiarity is the enemy of creativity. We are warned of the risks of creative ruts and schooled in the idea that the only way to come up with something new is to find a new way of coming up with it. Online articles and forum posts abound to help us avoid these dangers, and there are apparently any number of ways. 6 Ways To Kill Creativity, 8 Bad Habits that Crush Your Creativity, 14 Ways To Bust Out Of A Creativity Rut, you name it.
It’s all “step out of your comfort zone”, “avoid predictability”, “repetition is inherently uncreative”. But what if your comfort zone is comfortable because it’s where you produce your best work from? What if your predictability is what your audience love you for? What if repetition gives you economies of scale that allow you to maximise your profit?
I think it’s all a question of priorities and what success looks like for you. If, in your particular corner of the creative industry, a constant stream of fresh ideas and content is essential – then absolutely. And you can see, there are plenty of ways you can do it. From taking a walk, to thinking like a four year old, to borrowing from other creative disciplines. To do this best, of course, you first have to recognise what your creative norms are in the first place – which I’m sure would prove a really interesting exercise in self-awareness in itself.
But I wouldn’t mind betting it’s not true for everyone. Customers love Cath Kidston because of the consistency of her distinctive style. Audiences flock to classic sitcoms over the Christmas holiday because of the warm comfort blanket of well-known characters, predictable storylines and repeatable catchphrases you can see coming from miles off. People buy IKEA sofas because they know exactly what they’re going to get and they don’t have to think too hard about it. All these creatives know what they do best and give it all they’ve got. And, all credit for them. They’ve found a formula that works for them and their audience, and they’re making most of it. More than that: they simply wouldn’t be as good if they didn’t work their magic in such a consistent and familiar way.
So, if your diet fails or your daily meditations fade away before January ends, don’t be too sad. Perhaps that’s just not you. Perhaps the you that you’ve been all the way through last year, treating yourself to snacks and sitting on the sofa marginally more than you walk the treadmill, will serve you just as well (if not better) in 2016.
And that goes for your creative approach and style as well. Maybe in 2016 we should all break the habit of breaking our habits. That feels pretty different to me.