A few weeks ago, I saw a quote that sort of stuck in my head. I say “sort of,” because I don’t remember who said it and I don’t remember the exact wording. This always happens to me. I will misquote movie lines even after watching it a hundred times. I get the gist and my brain fills in the rest. Anyway, this quote said something about how social media is bad because it is forcing artists to create uninspired work in order to keep up with the fast paced need for more and more content. Artists no longer spend months or years on a project, because they have to churn out new content as often as multiple times a day.
When I read it, I agreed. “You’re right, stranger on the internet that I will forget about in 4 seconds, because social media has shortened my attention span!” *continues scrolling to distract from existential dread*
I forgot about the quote until yesterday, and was suddenly like “Hey! That person was wrong!” Or course, the social media post I saw was long gone, so I couldn’t go write a strongly worded comment–which I wouldn’t do anyway, because I avoid conflict–but I can scream into the internet void via my blog! So here I am.
What is uninspired work?
You know that feeling in your chest when you have this beautiful connection with your muse? You feel all light and airy, and you want to immediately gush some sort of magical idea onto a canvas, sketchbook, or whatever surface you can, because a creative power is surging through you? And suddenly, this new twist on your creativity is birthed into the world.
Yeah, uninspired work is not that.
Uninspired work is cliché, overdone, or unoriginal. Uninspired work is muscle memory or mimicry. It’s going through the motions. It’s showing up when you feel empty and squeezing some semblance of a creative product from the depths of your being. What flows through you when inspired, comes out like a dusty wheeze when you’re uninspired. It’s easy to think that social media begs for uninspired work, because it begs for content regardless of your state of inspiration. Artists are forced to create when they have nothing new or meaningful to say.
This can lead creative people to sacrifice quality for quantity when it comes to content, but this isn’t necessarily true for everyone nor is it inherently detrimental to creative end products. In fact, I think social media can lead to a wellspring of creativity if leveraged and I think that uninspired work is the most important work you can put yourself through.
A demand for content can keep an artist focused.
Even without social media, you shouldn’t wait for inspiration to hit you before you work on your craft. If you are serious about whatever form your creativity takes, then you should be exercising your skills often. Though, like any form of exercise, it’s easy to say “I don’t feel like it today. I’ll do it tomorrow instead.” How many “todays” have been wasted while waiting for tomorrow’s inspiration? I’ve wasted many.
The constant demand for content on social media keeps me accountable as a creator. I know that if I want to sell art, I need to grow my following. If I want to grow my following, I need to post often. If I am going to post often, then I need to create more art and more content. If I create more art, then I’ll have more to sell, and the cycle continues.
Inspired or uninspired, I make art and social content. Products from either state of creation don’t appear any more or less valuable, and I bet you can’t tell what art was created in either state if you looked at my Instagram.
A demand for more content can force an artist to to tell a bigger story about their creativity.
Anytime I work with my consulting clients during Instagram Assessments, I can hear the panic on the other end of the phone when I tell them they should be posting on social media every day.
“But I don’t have enough art for that!” They say.
And I try to soothe them with this: You don’t need to post a new piece of art every day. You need to post new content every day. There is a huge difference.
Social media isn’t demanding that you create new art from start to finish every day. If you are rushing your creative process, then you need to make adjustments. You need to make your art on the timeline it demands. Some artists create quick work that comes together in minutes, some create insanely detailed work that requires months of dedicated time. Do what your art demands, but expand your idea of what counts as social media content while you honor your creative process.
Create cheap content. Not cheap art.
When I say create cheap content, it’s not about creating something that has little value. It’s about creating content that doesn’t sap your energy. Be energetically thrifty on social media. Like I said before, you don’t need to create new art every day just to post on social media, but you can capture small parts of your process as you work.
A video of a brush stroke, a portrait of you next to your art, your studio space, your art supplies, your messy hands, your spilled paint water. What tells your story as a creator? Your social media posts are not just for your art. Your posts are for your entire story and life as an artist. Zoom out and capture the details of you, your process, and your inspiration. When you are forced to create more content, your creativity can flourish as you see your entire artistic life as a work of art.
Capture all of it. Show us who you are, why you create, and why we should care about your art when you finally have an end product to show and sell.
Showing up can shake inspiration loose.
I can’t tell you how many times I have entered my studio without a shred of inspiration in me and walked out hours later with something completely new and inspiring laid out on my work tables. If I didn’t need to create in order to produce content to post and sell, then I’d easily shirk my creative responsibilities and go eat ice cream or watch TV. Or both, more likely, while I wait for inspiration to hit me.
Inspiration is a strange thing. You can’t predict when it will hit, but you can make sure to show up and be close to your medium when it happens. Almost every time I create from an uninspired place, I start to see my art supplies in different ways. My brain hates the discomfort of being forced to sit with my creativity when it isn’t flowing, and so it actually becomes more creative as it tries to get rid of the discomfort.
When I am tired of what I’ve been doing in the studio, I do different things to excite my brain. I look at old work from the past and try to combine it with new stuff. I pick up a tool I haven’t used in awhile. I grab a color that normally doesn’t speak to me. Even if I change what I did before in just one small way, I can still experience creative growth.
A lack of inspiration forces me to shake inspiration loose to end the discomfort I feel. This wouldn’t happen without being forced to sit in my studio and create in order to feed the social media monster.
Your work won’t always be inspired. Your work won’t always feel new and fresh. Sometimes you will hit a wall and get tired of your creations, but if you keep moving forward, you will grow. If you create for the sake of producing content and never actually feel inspired, you will still grow creatively. Uninspired work is important work. It’s where you sit in discomfort and struggle through the process, and it’s where you make the most progress. Social media can lead you to create art that is inspired in ways that can surprise you.
So, sorry random person on the internet whose quote loosely stuck into my brain. You weren’t entirely accurate!
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