When inspiration suffers diffusion

Let’s talk about the wave of creativity that was unleashed in the turbulent first half of 2020.

Solidarity and social isolation pushed the use of digital possibilities to new horizons. The number of Instagram Live streams increased 70% between March and April alone. People are just not meant to be alone, and the world put that truth into big, bold letters during the pandemic.

Everyone was bored, scared, frustrated, detached but still part of the whole. Many started to get creative. From exchanges about coping with isolation in personal Instagram Live conversations, to finding ways to process both the world’s and our own personal feelings as Valentina Buffalo did in her 30 days visual diary – creative product was being created at every corner.

It’s interesting how physical isolation freed the mind to take a deep dive into its own thinking and feeling, connecting the dots and creating a singular, personal context.

It’s also interesting, that although we were distanced and isolated, we never felt more connected as a whole – thanks to digital possibilities and the always-on internet.

Particularly businesses needed to find new things to talk to their consumers about. Linkedin reported 9 billion content impressions – that’s 15 times more than job postings receive. A lot of content was being pushed out there. Some ground-breaking, some repetitive, but all of it with an interesting twist.

So what does this mean?

First, It makes it evident that creativity is a collective endeavour. It needs an external source to trigger an internal spark, which is then given back to the collective after being cast and crafted.

Second, creative product oftentimes becomes content, be it tangible or digital. And tons of it is being pushed into the world, where it has the chance to inspire our own creativity and influence our thinking.

In a brand perspective, standards are being redefined and reshaped this year. Brands and individuals alike are experimenting with new ways of creating value and packaging messages.

All this is flooding us with inspiration and possibilities.

This is where I get a deja-vu to 2010-2011. Back then, Pinterest was scratching the social skin of the internet, mobile-first was the race you needed to win and customer experience was maturing into mainstream business.

We are inspired and get creative – we need to stay ahead. In many ways, that’s a good thing. Innovation takes place. Traditionally set-up businesses are given a (final) chance to embrace the modern symbiotic circle that is analog and digital.

In other ways, we may feel lost in comparing A to B to Z. That starts to become a problem when we try incorporating everything instead of selecting. We forget to focus on what makes sense for ourselves and our brand.

I am experiencing some of this first-hand. We see a shiny idea or trend, we think it’s mind-blowing, we decide we need (to do) that. We see the next shiny idea, see that it’s gaining popularity, we decide to do that, too. Before we know it, we’re so diffused it feels like a thin layer of jam on thick toast – a bad (culinary) experience.

So what to do?

Three principles that are currently helping me get over my own diffusion:

  1. Consistency is the most important thing to remember these days. Constant learning and growth are important. At some point though, we need to pick something and pull it through.
  2. Focus will help us with our feelings of overwhelm. It has a lot to do with prioritising where to invest time in, as well.
  3. Selective retreat. This one is a direct response to the lockdown and important for the creative process. The point is to retreat from outside influences on a regular basis. Take time to sort your thoughts and plans. Let ideas sink in, see what your second, third and fourth response are, beyond your first initial reaction. Take the time to develop new avenues.

In closing, dear community, I invite you to share your diffusion recovery tips: What’s helping you fight overwhelm in the creative process?

Image courtesy of Lucas Benjamin.