The double edged sword of creativity
Creativity is brilliant, messy and exhausting
I have never really thought of myself as creative; in fact, I bet most people who are, don’t. I knew I loved ideas; I knew I loved new things and I knew I loved to produce but to be creative? No, not me. That was until about a year ago. Driven by the desire to help set my daughter up so she only had to get a proper job if she chose to, I delved into Instagram. I had some inkling that for her this is where the answers lay, but other than that I had no real idea of what I was doing.
Instagram inspired me.
The platform inspired me, gave me a deep desire to innovate and create and I found myself playing for countless hours with her, trying to put an idea one of us had into visually form and expression. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t but we didn’t care, we were having fun. We posted our best pictures on the platform and her account started to grow, it was good, nice, there was no pressure, we were having a blast. I could get into this creativity lark, I loved it. Then something happened, various things led to her account blowing up and she went from 7,000 followers to 13,000, 15,000 and now over 40,000. Things started to change; suddenly we felt this pressure to create more and better and innovate more. It had always been our intention to innovate and transform the Bookstagram world; at the time little did we know the toll that was taken on us. We got more and more creative with our concepts, producing things that had never been seen before and we loved it, the adoration was coming in and the account was growing, along with our egos a little I expect. Bronte and her account was the in-thing and it felt good.
Until it Didn't
That was until it didn’t. As we scrolled though her Instagram feed again and again we saw pictures that were similar to ones we had created to absolute copies. At first we didn’t care we were inspiring others and that felt good. Imitation is the biggest form of flattery, right? Well, I think it depends on your mood. At first we were overjoyed we felt flattered but then we realised that if what we posted now looked the same as everyone else’s’, our photos were no longer innovative, creative, which left us in a difficult position, I mean how was she now going to stand out?
It was exhausting; we were both miserable and there were tears shed. Our creativity was now feeling like a hungry bear and it wanted more and more food every day.
When you create a trend you have to stay ahead of it or come up with new ones and that’s a lot to ask, and when you know that the new trend with be copied straight away what’s the point? It’s a difficult place to be in. When a lot of what you do is copied you are left not knowing what to do next.
Some days you just feel vulnerable
I know some people shrug it off, I know some people say they don’t care and often to the most part neither do we. But those days you are feeling vulnerable and see a post of yours recreated exactly in your feed with no reference to you it hurts, when you see nearly every picture containing elements of something you started it makes you feel awful and when you have to fight with people to take your picture off their Instagram account because they haven’t credited you its soul destroying. I even had someone get mad at me for asking for credit because she got the picture form Pinterest and therefore it could not have been Bronte’s. I get it, I really do. A lot of these people are young, they don’t know what they are doing and often we see an idea and forget where it comes from. We have done it, we always try and say where we got inspiration from and we always try and put our spin on the picture. Sometimes we don’t get it right, sometimes we forget and sometimes we have copied without even knowing it. Images stick in your head we tap into a creative consciousness so to speak and we make mistakes. It’s all true and on good days we really don’t care and actually love that people are inspired by Bronte’s pictures.
I think there is something we don’t seem to understand, an acceptance that in my mind needs challenging – creativity is a double-edged sword and sometimes perhaps I think it is easier to follow than create.
With the high of creativity comes a low, with a rush of a new idea comes the days where you are too exhausted to even think. The act of creation is often exhausting, demanding so much energy that you can be wiped out for days afterwards. There is some evidence showing there could be a link between creativity and mental and in recent research, creative writers scored similar to psychopaths on measurement scales. Creativity is a beast that you have to tame daily, or at least it can feel like that.
You see that picture, piece of writing, art you create isn’t the end product. When people look at your little square on Instagram there are lots they don’t see.
They don't see the hours
They don’t see the hours that went into thinking of the idea, the blood, sweat and often tears that went into getting it right, the hundreds of times you did it and it failed, the story behind that creation process, the joy at your creation, this thing you birth and the buckets of wine you have to celebrate a job well done.
And I think that is what hurts, when people don’t acknowledge, you feel like there is no acknowledgment of that piece. You feel like they have robbed you of that somehow.
A copy is a copy after all
I recently saw an almost exact copy of a picture Bronte did in my feed with no mention of her at all. And I’m not talking inspired by - it was almost identical and I burst out in tears. I don’t do this often but it caught me on one of those days. The picture they had copied was an idea of mine, one that kept me awake all night, one I fell in love with as I dreamed about it, one that took Bronte all day to execute and get right, one that had never been seen before on the platform, well at least we hadn’t seen it and one that I felt very attached to. And this person had taken all that from me with her imitation.
I may have been overreacting, it may have caught me on a vulnerable day but it gave me a deeper understanding of the hurt we can cause when we imitate others. If we have ever done it without acknowledging you, I apologise now.
Is this OK?
And then that gets me thinking are we perhaps creating an environment where this is OK? When we brush things off does it allow people to carry on? Or, when like me you don’t say anything to the person because you don’t want to seem picky or petty, are we making it OK? Or am I just being too precious and need to get a life?
I think it is perhaps the fact that the creative, messy process is often not shown to people, people don’t understand how much of your soul, sweat and hard work goes into the creation process. The wonderful internet has somehow undervalued the creative process and the next generation don’t care about copyright, not because they don’t care but perhaps because no one has really shown them how to come up with their own creative process or what they are really copying when they copy an image.
I don’t know how some of the big accounts do it; I don’t know how they see their masterpieces recreated again and again and not get down. Maybe it’s part of the deal, maybe it is part of what you have to accept. But that doesn’t make it right, does it?
What is the answer?
I don’t know what the answer is and tomorrow I could see the same picture and it wouldn’t bother me one bit. But at the moment it does, so I felt compelled to write this.
Personally, I think a start would be to give everyone a copy of Steal like an Artist, which I think goes someway to explaining why great artists use others as inspiration and do not imitate.
Anyway, here I am for today saying you know what, when you steal our ideas and make them your own sometimes it really hurts.
And my commitment is to perhaps make more of a conscious effort to find the inspiration for a picture we have created and cite it, to talk about the creative process more and to help people understand the story behind the image. Because creativity isn’t always all rainbows and unicorns is it.