Changing how you create changes what you create.
That has been driven home to me this month as I’ve been doing this daily blogging project because the rules of the project have forced me out of my typical writing workflow and, in so doing, have led to my publishing much shorter posts than I would normally publish.
These posts have been shorter not just because of the limited time I have to write them, but also because of when and how the ideas come up. Historically, I’ve written in the morning because that’s been my best creative time, but I’ve written and published almost all of these posts at night. And by night, I mean “I’m normally asleep at this time” night. Some days I latched onto ideas earlier in the day, and on other days, I sat down for a few moments, reflected on the day’s thoughts, and picked one of them to share.
The results of that process are posts that are shorter, more idea-heavy, and far less how-to oriented than my normal writing. Of course, if you’ve been reading along, you’ve noticed that, too.
Yesterday I was talking about the project with someone who mentioned that the posts are Seth-like, referring to Seth Godin’s idiosyncratic way of writing. I’ve thought about how similar my posts have been to his as they’ve gone along, even though I’m not trying to imitate his style. I think that when you write under a similar set of rules as the ones I’ve laid out, you end up with a similar result.
A related reflection on style came up for me during this morning’s guitar jam. After I played a few songs from Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson, I felt Jimi Hendrix’s style in the songs I had been playing. Both artists are very heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix and actively incorporate his style into their own. (“Felt” is used here intentionally, as it was less of an auditory experience and more of a bodily experience as my hands and internal rhythm shifted to a more Jimi-like groove.)
I was able to feel Jimi’s style as not-mine, but this kind of writing doesn’t have that same sense of not-mine-ness about it. It doesn’t quite feel like it is mine, either, as I continually adapt it so that it still feels whole to me. It feels more like putting on shorts after a long winter of wearing pants; the shorts fit you just fine, but they feel different.
Of course, people who make art that exists in the world or who use real tools and equipment to do so know that changing how you create changes the art that you create. Switching from colored pencils to graphite changes how you’re inspired, just as switching different types of canvasses does. Switching from an acoustic Martin guitar to a Gibson Les Paul influences the music you’ll create and play on those instruments. The same principle applies to digital creators — it’s just not as obvious because of the myriad ways we can change how we create without changing the tools we touch.
Even in the cases where what you create actually ends up worse, it’s still a valuable data point to see that. You can always go back to your old way, but you’ll inevitably stumble upon some creative insights. Just make sure that experimentation like this isn’t a guerrilla form of hiding from the work you’re scared to do.
As all this relates to me, I’m still intentionally non-committal about how I’ll go forward with writing after this month. I’m not even trying to figure out how I’ll decide because that would start to chip away at the rules of the project. But what I will say is that I’m so glad that I’ve done this so that I have these reminders, not to mention the many other insights that have come up along the way.
How might changing the way you do your creative work change the end result? Play with it and see. 🙂