The internet is killing my gut and my creativity–or was that the gastro I’ve had this week?
I swear. I’ve been writing this particular post for ages but I haven’t quite had, what Oprah would call, the LIGHTBULB MOMENT. But being at home sick with an incredibly bad gastro virus for three days has given me the time to really get to the bottom of this problem.
So what is the problem?
Here’s the scenario: I’m making some labels for a new biz that JJ and I have started. I open the Avery sticker template and then think, now what? Obviously, I head to my library and Google “great sticker designs” and then “sticker design templates”, “pet food label templates”, “old school sticker designs”, “vintage label designs” etcetera adfuckingnauseum.
When did I become so goddamned stupid that I couldn’t come up with my own idea for a sticker?
And it doesn’t stop there. There’s “questions to ask your fiction characters” (for my next book), ”porcelain jewellery designs” (ideas for my pottery class), “profitable crafts” (for, oh, I dunno).
How much research is too much? How much before we forget to use our own imagination instead of looking for a solution.
I brought this up with someone today and she said: “Betty, that’s the difference between us and the kids, they don’t see Google as cheating; to them it’s efficient.”
And I completely get that. But is that just an excuse for creative laziness?
I don’t deny that online research is vital for helping us locate or learn to do. But there are all sorts of websites that help us come up with ideas instead of coming up with our own. Like recipefinder—it’s the reverse cookbook-you enter a few ingredients you have in your fridge and it comes up with suggestions. Nifty, sure, but what’s wrong with sitting with the ingredients in your mind for a few minutes and just working it out? I know, at 7 at night after work, the last thing you want to do is come up with meal ideas.
Just as very few brilliant ideas have come from someone watching TV, how many have come from Googling? (I swear, I was about to Google “how many brilliant ideas have come from watching TV?” and I’m struggling to stop myself).
I’ve learned a lot of great things online, and found heaps of inspiration, like how to make this for Momo’sbirthday in November – clearly this is a perfect cake for a celiac.
But the internet is also the reason that I’ve spent so much time researching and reading about the best way to outline a new book, that I’m petrified to try, out of fear that I’ll do it wrong. Really. I’ve written three novels, many short stories, do I need to waste my time researching how instead of just doing the thing itself. The more I ask Google how to do it, the more I doubt myself, my intuition, my gut instinct.
Google is not a replacement for Creativity and Imagination. Well, it is, actually. But it shouldn’t be. Nor should it be a replacement for decision making. Like asking, for example, “pink or red icing— what would Martha do?” (see above – I think the answer is, all of them)
Is there such a thing as too much information, too many visual aids and way too much creative inspiration from other people who probably don’t spend time sourcing ideas from the net? I can’t remember the last time I read of a creative who thanked the net for helping them discover their art. Yes, it helps to foster community. But mostly, an artist learns their style by doodling and writing and stitching until they get everything that’s not them out of the way and uncover their own true essence.
We ask, figure out, try, do, fuck up, take a break, correct, redo, accept.
Therefore, I’m setting myself a 1 month challenge, possibly longer:
No internet research for IDEAS. If I need ideas, I have a library nearby and a room full of books in the study. Better yet, if I need ideas, I’m going sit with the problem for a while, or maybe talk to JJ. Mostly I’m going to keep working on it and, just like before a decent search engine (Altavista anybody? Hotbot?), I’ll come up with something.