Monday, March 20, 2017

Creativity or Half-Assery?

I care too much about what other people think. Or rather, I care too much about knowing what other people think. Sure, sometimes being disliked or a hindrance influences my actions. I’m not capable of making an impatient person wait for me, even if I have every right to take my time, for instance. But overall, I can handle interaction with a person who staunchly despises me over a kind person who might just be fake.

Not worrying about other’s judgments is considered an ultimate goal for most, many proudly proclaiming, “I don’t worry what others think.”

And you know what? By caring what other people think, I improved. Once I really began to acknowledge the importance of other people’s opinions, I developed my skills much faster and began to gain credibility from a first glance. I focused on cramming the forgotten corners of my talents, tending to aspects that I didn’t necessarily enjoy or respect.

But it came with a price. As expected, my creativity was lost, my personality, the uniqueness and style to my work. The things I was making seemed more stilted and homogenized, less exciting, more typical. Overall, I even felt less inspired.

It’s also difficult not to enter into a room and constantly be fixated on what everyone is thinking and doing. It’s not all bad. I’m extremely perceptive, good at taking care of the needs of others, being a team player, and handling the situation. I’m an attentive listener and people do tend to have a shallow fondness for me.

The problem is when it directs all my energy and incapacitates me from doing what I want to. Even when I know an opinion is wrong or it’s none of their business, being aware of what they’re thinking can sometimes cause me to cease up.

When I was younger, being watched didn’t bother me in the least. Nowadays, doing something well in front of someone is substantially more difficult when someone is standing there than when I’m by myself.

The “I don’t care what people think” ideology has come up several times in the past few weeks, making me reassess what exactly is going on. It’s pretty frequent in the writing world overall, and it can be a point of contention. If you look through the biographies of many successful writers, Jack Kerouac as a more obvious example, you can see how they were criticized for writing the way that eventually made them a household name.

An author posted a comment, “Many of you may wonder (in regards to my books/designs) why I don't go by the "standard" formats/rules. Here is why: when it comes to creative expression...TRUE creative expression; there is no rule, there is no standard.”

I, of course, went and looked at his cover designs to find them fairly lacking. It wasn’t that they were uncreative, they were different than most, but they seemed amateurish, simplistic in an easy way. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem. I actually did somewhat like the concept, or perhaps the colors, yet I thought it could be done better. There were some issues in them, like typos on the back cover, random capitalization in some places and not in others.

The other problem is that he uses the series’ title first, putting the book’s title beneath it. At first it seems like they are all called the same until you realize what he’s actually done. Is this really a big problem? Not necessarily, but with self-publisher’s habit of changing cover art frequently, I could see how you would miss that this is a sequel and not just a new version of the first.

Bias confirmed, his fight for creativity proved exactly what I would expect; it seemed half-assed more than inspired.

I suppose that calling it “true creativity” irritated me. I don’t necessarily think that stream of conscious ideas are preferable to brainstormed ones, as in, slapping an idea on a paper and calling it a day isn’t necessarily more creative than analyzing the pros and cons, positive and negative influences, receiving feedback, and questioning overall effect of a decision.

Being creative isn’t exactly about being different. It’s more about finding a new way to have an impact, or even just finding a new tact to do… anything. There’s a lot of occasions in which someone has done something that deviates from the “norm” and I wouldn’t call it especially creative. I’m more inclined to call it lazy.

Intelligently experimenting, trying new things with focus (over just spewing random thoughts) is often oriented by understanding how people think. It’s recognizing how people react to things, it’s recognizing how people don’t react to things. In fact, people who tell me they don’t care what others think seem to be more overwhelmed with their inability to get the desired response.

You don’t have to adhere to other people’s expectations or assumptions, but understanding how the average person will hear/see something enables you to decide if and what to change about it.

I genuinely don’t know how to improve as a writer if you never think about what other people are seeing. I also don’t find that people who only do what they’re naturally inclined to are being all that creative. They often come across as the opposite; doing what everyone else is and mostly unaware of it.

That’s not entirely the case though. Patrick Rothfuss described a character who had learned to play music on her own compared to a musician who had studied all his life. Music was like a city, and the musician knew every inch of it, each street and corner, each shop, and he could move around quickly and easily, while the girl moved naturally as well, but that wasn’t because she knew where she was going, just could walk through walls, unaware that she couldn’t.

There’s something to be said for being honest and not over thinking it, and how people can restrict you. I find my concepts were far more inspired than as of late, with half-assed execution that kept them down. Once you know the rules, it becomes difficult to organically ignore them, like if someone were to tell you not to think of an elephant and you tried to think of an elephant a normal amount.

Doing what feels right can create something far more relatable and new compared to the clinical following of certain standards of protocol. I am by no means a rule follower, but I’ve come to have a harder time ignoring people’s two cents.

Recently, I started to come to terms with exactly what was the problem. I’d been talking to a guy that I really liked, but was slightly embarrassed by the age difference between us, and it was putting a wall between us. There came a point where I realized that he was actually a little younger than he had originally claimed and it was like I had been socked in the chest. He had rounded up when we first met, thinking that he wouldn’t stand a chance otherwise… and he had been right.

Nothing changed about him. Nothing was different, but to hear that specific number mortified me. I had to process it, and I finally sat back and accepted what was really bothering me; I didn’t want people to think I was dating a younger man.

Putting that into words, it all sounded so stupid. I began to realize that most of my guilt and unhappiness had to do with appearances, not my actual actions, not the actual situation. The understanding lifted a weight off of me.

Being true to yourself is hard because you’re flaws don’t have to limit you. My lazy ass self would be a shut in most of her life, but she wouldn’t have learned the lessons she did, or find the things she enjoyed otherwise. I can’t say how much we should stay true to ourselves and how much we should push ourselves to be better, but we all go through the same sort of shit, and it’s important to recognize when image (or laziness) is getting in the way of what is actually best.

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