So I’ve been thinking (I was due a few thoughts – it’s been a while): how does sharing our work affect our output? Or more specifically, does it help us as creatives to have other people watching?
Kitty celebrated her 10th birthday this weekend with a sleepover. The girls had a ball: there were games, crafts, a movie and lots of dancing competitions. But the part that struck me most, was when one of the girls asked if I had any string.
“String?” I queried, wondering what she had in mind.
“Yes, to make string art,” she replied, “Come on, I’ll show you how.”
String located, she proceeded to demonstrate to us all how to dip lengths into paint and press them between folded sheets of paper to create beautifully random patterns.
I watched as the girls worked: they threw themselves into it, each girl concentrating on dipping her own string into the colour she chose, squashing her paper closed and delighting in the results as she opened it again.
There was no question of which colour to pick or how proficient in the technique the person next to her was. There was no comparison and no confidence wobbles. Each girl just got on with producing her own work, then stood back and grinned at her results.
Just like us grown-up girls creating our work, eh?
Only, not so much.
Because before we’ve even picked out paint colours, we’re thinking about who’s going to see it.
We’re considering what’s popular right now, what’s acceptable, which products and patterns will bring in the likes, which techniques and formats will attract the most attention and followers.
Which is all a natural by-product of social media, of course.
Those little hearts wield a lot of power, don’t they? In fact, I heard a psychologist the other day say that he considers social media to be, “highly, highly addictive. And I’ve repeated ‘highly’ there quite deliberately.”
The problem is though, that creativity – in the sense of switching off, getting in the zone and truly experimenting to see what happens – relies upon a playful attitude. We can’t just follow formulas and tighten up before we’ve even started and still expect to take our work somewhere exciting and new.
All those restrictions? All those inner voices? All that awareness of who’s looking and what they may or may not think? Incredibly unhelpful when it comes to getting truly creative and pushing ourselves to see what we’re capable of.
So truth time: do I create to get likes? Do I stick to techniques and styles that I know will go down well? You bet I do: nine times out of ten.
Isn’t that a shame?
Do I only ever dare (and for me, it is a form of bravery) to put work out there that’s different and fresh, when I’m feeling at my most robust mentally? Yep. But even then I agonise over the reception said piece of work might get.
It’s only when those hearts have reached a decent level that I can fully relax and decide that maybe what I made was okay and everyone hasn’t decided I’ve lost the plot and unfollowed me.
What a shame, eh?
That playful ‘can-do and will-do’-attitude of childhood: gone. Replaced by a craving for other people to tell me that I might be okay at this.
To tell me that I’m doing okay. That I’m liked. That I’m of value as a person.
As I say: total shame.