“Collecting the dots. Then connecting them. And then sharing the connections with those around you. This is how a creative human works. Collecting, connecting, sharing.”
― Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Let People Help
This is how most of my writing happens. I collect dots without first knowing what I’m going to do with them.
They connect, sometimes in surprising ways. I flip the angles and corners one way and then the next until they take shape.
And then I share them, either here or on some other medium.
I have no doubt that other artists use this method, too.
Think of Firefly, a cult classic that combined the Western and Sci Fi genres. My roommate’s mom creates incredible modern art on rice paper using a traditional style of Japanese painting. Both of these are examples of the unexpected ways artists connect the dots.
But I also find that creativity lies in a “Let’s try this and see what happens” state of mind.
You try new things just to try them. You experiment just for the sake of it. You expect nothing from it.
“Let’s see what happens when I design my email newsletter with a different layout.”
“Let’s see what happens when, instead of writing a listicle, I express a genuine thought and share the nugget of truth that I discovered.”
“Let’s see what happens when I post absurd chronicles of a hyperactive German Shepherd on Instagram.”
Collect the dots. Connect them. Share them.
Let’s see what happens.
This doesn’t work as well if you expect a certain result: a higher click rate, more followers, better reach, monetization. Those results have their place, but you can’t think about them just yet.
Where less discerning creatives get stuck is when they are more focused on the sharing than they are on the connecting and collecting.
The secret to it really is experimentation and curiosity. It means taking the risk to be truly different rather than like someone else who is truly different.
When I feel blocked, it means I fret anxiously over the final product.
When I feel blocked, it means I’m afraid of my own awkward, bumbling execution of my work.
When I feel blocked, it means I’m hyper aware of every finite detail of every idea and it’s possible yet unlikely outcome.
When I feel blocked, it means my expectations are too high. I force the dots to connect a certain way only to find that they’re moving around on me.
Then I pull it together, and I do what I always do to manage anxiety. I put one foot in front of the other.
I write a draft and don’t publish it. I take dozens of pictures and delete them all. I make a photo mosaic and throw it away before the glue has time to dry.
I turn to a clean sheet of notebook paper. I find something else to take pictures of. I try making the photo mosaic that I had doubts about at first.
It’s not all that different from being in the thick of the work. I scratch words out. I try a different camera angle. I try a thousand variations of each piece of the mosaic until it fits. It’s in those moments that I’m truly creative.
Let’s try this and see what happens.
If you want to be creative, stand out, and grab people’s attention, then you try it and see what happens, because you have nothing else to lose and everything to gain.
If you’re searching for the secret to creativity, see what happens when you dig into the work. See what happens when you open yourself up to the process, the play, the exploration, and the curiosity. Whether you work solo or collaborate with others, see what happens when your commitment is to the process and not the result.
See what happens.
Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash