Why Going Offline Might Save Your Creative Business


Ahhhhhh Google, the all-seeing, all-knowing search engine company that birthed our obsession with online life. Suddenly we had the knowledge of a billion brains at our fingertips, the work of scholars, artists and musicians from past and present readily available in one swift click.

Creatives breathed a sigh of relief at this new development - 'thank god, now that we have access to more than we could ever look at or know, we will never be stuck for inspiration again.' Right guys?

Errrr..... not quite, Creatives, don't crack out the champagne just yet. Unfortunately the road towards free-flowing, 24/7 creativity on tap is bumpier than that. Some might even say it's a journey with no end, that the very nature of creativity is unpredictable and therefore not something we can learn to do, or force. So I'm going to explain why going offline (from time to time... what a rhyme!) can do for recharging your creative batteries.

We take the internet and all the wireless wiff waff that comes with it today so much for granted, that we rarely question whether it is actually helping us to be creative or organise our thoughts. 

For the purposes of illustrating my point, let's take a look at Adriana's (a made up person who is a useful metaphor) situation.

Adriana is a great photographer. She specialises in newborn portraits and has received some really fantastic feedback from some of her first clients. She gets to her 4th paid photoshoot and starts to wonder if her props are getting a bit repetitive, so she goes online to look for (dramatic suspense for the magic word....) INSPIRATION!

She hits the Pinterest boards hard and starts swooning over the amazing photography that's there. But 3 things happen after an hour or so of browsing.

1. She's lost an hour (that's pretty obvious) but time = money as the old saying goes, and if you're self employed or in the creative industries this is even more truthful as being proactive and efficient is really important if you want to make a good living.

2. She experiences inspiration overload. Sometimes being too inspired in a short space of time is not a good thing. It can leave creatives feeling panicked and overwhelmed and lead to inactivity and procrastination. What you want to aim to do is make like Paul Smith, and drip-feed yourself creativity throughout the day. Seeing inspiration in everything will begin to come naturally.

3. She experiences this horrible, deep down, gut churning emotion commonly known as... JEALOUSY. We are hardwired to feel jealous of other people's success and it's nothing to feel particularly ashamed of. Adriana thinks 'why should I even bother trying' because her images will never be as good as the ones she sees online. They must have better equipment, more cash at hand, cuter babies (?!) she thinks. She feels miserable and frustrated that she will, in her opinion, never live up to them.

Photo: Never underestimate the powerful simplicity of a notebook in which to gather your thoughts,

NOW, some feelings of jealousy go a long way in prompting people to work harder and even gentle rivalry has been shown to be beneficial in a teamwork setting as it motivates people to act on what they need to do. However when you mix this emotion with the vast arrays of information available online, we become used to seeing the 'best of the best' and this can be SUPER misleading.

We start to think that everyone is like this, and everyone has done this by the age of 20, and that is simply not the case.

It's great to look at the work of others and learn from them - but we have to be careful to strike a balance between gleaning ideas and admiring the work of others with getting so bogged down in feeling of inadequacy that we do more harm than good.

George RR Martin, the writer of the famous Game of Thrones series, has explained to The Guardian that his 'secret weapon' for creative activity and overcoming writer's block is a computer that is totally offline. He claims that the lack of distractions allows him to focus purely on the task at hand, and therefore going 'off the grid' helps his creative process!

It is incredibly easy to see 'likes' and peer validation as the best way to measure your success - our newly forged relationship with social media teaches us that gaining approval from others is the most important metric of happiness. This relationship needs time to mature before we can consume social media and act on it in a healthier way, and the backlash against it has already begun. 

So I think we've established that going offline can sometimes be a good thing, and I'm not advocating leading an off-the-grid lifestyle because I personally believe the internet has an incredible amount to offer people: I just think we need to sit down sometimes, and open up a big old book that's full of images, and reflect on the fact that no matter how old we are, how skilled we are or how financially successful we are, what we are doing is valid and worthwhile as long as it brings us contentment and fulfillment.

Photo: I use a sketchbook to arrange things around on a page if I need help clarifying my ideas, oh ad I photograph each page on my iphone before I dismantle it - even the crap stuff (which I have included here to show you that sometimes you need to know what doesn't work visually, in order to fix it)

So what do you think?

  • Does the internet help you get inspired? If so, how?
  • Do you find that going online to see 'what other people are doing' often turns into self-inficted sulking sessions about how great everyone is compared to you?
  • What's the best way to get inspired offline in your opinion?

You can follow me on Facebook here, and check out more of my photography here. You can also fnd me chillin over on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

I also run an FREE online HQ photography resource for bloggers, which you can find here.

As always, thanks for reading and leave any comments you have below!

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