Creatively Thinking: Social media kills my creative buzz, man

It’s true. Social media kills my creative buzz.

I can’t think when someone else is thinking for me.

None of us can and that’s what social media companies are banking on.

I once heard a pastor say it’s hard to hear God when we are filling our mind with so much garbage from the world. It’s similar for creativity. How can we hear our own voice when we are listening to so many others?

Social media is addicting.

It’s hard to get away from. ‘

Trust me, I know. Once you start scrolling it’s as if your brain slips into some sort of lock down, slow down mode. While your brain was once hopping with all kinds of ideas for stories or projects or plans, it’s now slowly grinding through the thoughts and ideas of other people and before long your own thoughts and ideas and plans are being strangled and pulled down. Your brain becomes muddled with all the information floating around in there and you can’t remember what plans you had or story you were going to write or what project you were going to complete.

“I’ll hop on for a few moments” you thought and then you realize two hours have passed and you’ve accomplished nothing. Not only that but then you spend the rest of the day sneaking peeks at the site or app you were on because you can’t stand not knowing what someone said back to you or about you or what they are doing.

Social media feeds off our natural tendency as humans to want to feel apart of something and not feel left out. They know what they are doing, in other words. The more addicted they can get you to that fear of missing out the more they can pull you in to view their ads, their propaganda, their view of the world. We are all slowly being brainwashed and sadly many of us like it.

We like being told how to think and what to believe and that our government and corporate officials want to take care of us. It’s soothing and calming to think others are taking care of us and have our best interest at heart. What a rude awakening when one day we realize they only want to manipulate us into one way of thinking and living by telling us some fact checker deemed our views as “incorrect and wrong.”

George Orwell wrote in his book 1984 (which I think should be required reading for all ages in this day and age):

Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.

If social media can dismantle your beliefs and tell you what you believe, they can control you so you’ll buy the products of their advertisers and maybe even vote for the people they allow to advertise there. Scary to think about it, isn’t it?

But also scary is that social media can also steal your creativity and leave you hollow and confused inside.

What’s the answer?

The answer is for each of us to decide, but for me my answer is to push social media aside as much as I can so I can hear my own beliefs, my own thoughts and my own creativity.

Creatively thinking: Back when I created how I wanted to

When I was in high school and college I wrote and sketched and photographed what I wanted without much thought to how it might upset or bother someone.

I would definitely say I was much more in tune with my creative brain back then. I stayed up late creating either through drawing or writing, rarely concerned with someone seeing my work and casting judgments about it being “proper” or not.

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Find stock images by me for sale at Lightstock and Alamy.

During that stage I wrote poems like “Living Statue” but never showed them to anyone. After all, poetry wasn’t really my thing – my brother was the poet. Plus, what would people in my life think about me writing about the half-naked model in my college art class. An offside about that, I had no idea we’d be drawing half-nude models when I signed up for that class.

I went to a smaller state school and had no idea they were progressive enough to allow such things. Imagine my pleasant surprise at being given the chance to sketch the human body, but also imagine my complete embarrassment at being asked to stare at that human body for an hour class. Luckily my art teacher wasn’t progressive enough to provide a completely nude model. Ha! I might have passed out during class.

Over the years my poor brain took a beating from the judgments of others and I, sadly, let those judgments affect how I created. Even sadder is that sometimes I still do. Echoing in my head are voices of the past scolding me for creating the way I wanted to, squelching what I really want to say or show.

To this day, I find myself thinking: “Who will be offended by this?” “What Christian will call me out and tell me I’m not Godly enough?” or “Who will remind me (again) they only hire photographers who pose their color-coordinated dressed family with perfect backdrops?”

Luckily I find myself doubting what I create a little less than I used to, hoping I can someday get back to the early days of not caring what others think, knowing there will be some who like what I create and some who don’t and accepting that I can’t make everyone happy.

How about you? Have you found your creativity has become more stifled or more open the older you’ve become?

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Find stock images by me for sale at Lightstock and Alamy.

Creatively Thinking: Too much social media kills creativity

I’ve decided the more I’m off social media, the more creative I can be, which is why it looks like another social media detox is coming up in the next week or so and it may last 30-days like I did earlier this year.

Actually, saving my creativity isn’t the only reason for dropping off social media – saving my sanity is more important at this point. In May I actually deleted my Facebook account, except for a ghost account to keep my blog page on there. Ignoring my better judgment, I went back on at the end of the summer and I can’t see that it has improved my life much at all.

When I slip into a depression slump I find myself scrolling through social media too much and when I scroll through social media too much I don’t do things I need to do or really want to do, like write my book or write a blog post or take photographs or – blah – clean the house. I just end up a depressed, moody slug sitting in front of my computer. I also end up angry, bitter and frightened for my childrens’ future.

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This past spring I did a social media detox and that’s when I started writing ‘A Story to Tell’ and decided to publish it as a weekly serial on here and then as a Kindle book. The success for me was simply how writing the story, and sharing it on my blog, was a distraction from social media, “news”, and from some challenging relationships in my life.

When I go on social media, I end up so wrapped up in the nonsense I read that I neglect the parts of my life that actually bring me joy — especially the more creative parts.

 

Social media is an addiction for many people. If you think it isn’t for you, do what I did last December and focus on how often you reach for your phone or computer to log into social media each day. Notice how many times you log into social media when you’re bored, lonely, procrastinating or avoiding real life (or certain people). I bet it’s more than you think because I know it was for me.

Another important aspect of learning how social media affects you is to notice how you feel after you sign off social media, or a news site.  Do you feel happier? I’m going to guess the majority of us can’t say that we feel anymore enlightened, elated, or hopeful about life after we’ve scrolled through a social media site. On the contrary, we probably feel like the world is on fire.

For creatives, it’s important to ask yourself if social media supports or hinders your creative flow. I’ve personally found that excessive social media use rarely supports creativity. In fact, for me, the constant digital noise I once engaged in silenced creativity altogether.

How can you think of new ideas, or use your imagination, when someone, or something, is constantly in your ear telling you what you think and who you are? More than once in the last two years, I have read about the need for all of us to seek more solitude and shut out the noise of the world around us.

Silence can facilitate daydreaming and daydreaming supports and strengthens our imagination. Imagination leads to creativity and then creativity leads to joy for even the most left-brained person out there. Creativity isn’t always about the arts . Creativity is also important for technical thinkers out there who need time create plans for projects or lists for completing whatever it is that helps them feel more organized. For many of us, organization helps us feel more grounded. Not having the time to create that organization because we are distracted by social media can leave us feeling discombobulated. 

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I have asked myself why there were so many great writers hundreds of years ago and less of them today? I have a feeling it is because hundreds of years ago the only thing people had time to do when the sun went down was think and daydream.

It’s not that social media is all evil. It connects us with new people, new ideas, and different worlds. It helps us reach people in a way we never could before. The evil part of social media is that we have allowed it, and what is shared on it, to distract us to the point that we have pushed aside activities that could actually further our society. Social media has no power over us that we don’t give it and many of us (me included) have given it awhole lot of power, let me tell you.

I don’t have any proof that inventions and innovations have decreased since the Internet and social media took over the world, and the exact opposite may be true in some fields, but I wonder if cures for cancer, or solutions to climate change, would have been found already if half of us weren’t scrolling social media; watching the circuses that are our congresses and parliaments; judging our neighbors; tsk-tsking the family member or acquaintance  in the middle of a divorce who has decided to write about it on social media; comparing ourselves to every other mother, writer, photographer, human being on the planet; and trying to change ourselves to fit some imaginary ‘normal’ in society.

Think about all the positive changes we could have made, not only in our own personal lives but in the world in general, if we weren’t staring at cat memes on our phones all day long. I have a feeling Satan knows that and has enjoyed dangling stupidity in front of us so we wander off the path we should have been taking all along.

All of this to say, I need another social media detox and you probably need it too. During my break last year and earlier this year, I offered some tips how to “survive” (or rather thrive) when you leave social media (even if only for 30-days); what I had time to do once I set social media aside; and how I felt when I logged back into Facebook after such a long break.

I know some of my blog readers aren’t even on social media (God bless you!) and some were on and promptly logged back off again. What’s your experience with social media? Do you find it stifles your creativity or productivity? How do you handle that? Are you better than me at balancing social media with your real life? If so, I’d love some pointers about how you do it. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. The last time I wrote about social media (Facebook for most of us), I had some really fun and insightful comments. 

 

 

Creatively Thinking: My creative brain has the worst timing

My creative brain awakens at the most inopportune times. It’s asleep when I need it to be awake and awake when I need it to be asleep, so I can sleep. It’s like a newborn baby.

Recently it went to sleep for a while and I was struggling with the sequel to ‘A Story to Tell’ but then, this week, it woke up, which would have been more exciting if it had happened during the day, when the children were otherwise occupied, but no, it woke up at midnight and nudged me at 1 a.m. and then again at 9:20 a.m., when the children were actually still asleep, but needed to be awake.Ó’

On Sunday afternoon, my husband was napping, my son and daughter were up in my son’s room and I was alone with time to write. Do you think anything would come to my mind for the new book then? Of course not! Because it wasn’t 1 a.m. and I wasn’t trying to sleep. I don’t know if any of you out there are writers, (well, I know many of you are at least bloggers, so you are) but writers know we can’t hush the Creative Brain at any point it awakens either. Much like the unwritten rule, “Never move a sleeping cat. Even if you can’t feel your legs anymore.” is the rule, “Never hush the muse once she begins to speak or she will NEVER speak to you again!”

I can’t move when the muse is speaking. I must simply write, even if my eyes are falling closed with exhaustion because if I move, the muse will fly away and Blanche won’t tell me the rest of her story and she’ll never return and I’ll never finish the book and I’ll be a failure! A failure, I tell you!

That’s probably not true, but my brain thinks it will happen that way because I have a vivid imagination. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to write fiction, right?

So how about you? Whether you’re writing blog posts, fiction or non-fiction or even technical manuals, when does your Creative Brain wake up? Is it the worst time possible like me? Let me know in the comments!


Lisa R. Howeler is a writer and photographer from the “boondocks” who writes a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She’s published a fiction novel ‘A Story to Tell’ on Kindle and also provides stock images for bloggers and others at Alamy.com and Lightstock.com.

Creative Tuesday: The loss of time to be bored may be killing our creative buzz

My kid flops on the couch on his stomach, face smashed into the cushions and lets out an exasperated sigh.

He turns his face toward me, eyelids heavy and his words are full of whine:

“I’m sooooooo booooooored.”

While I once thought filling my children’s days with various activities was the key to keeping them out of trouble, and their mind engaged, I’ve started to embrace what I’ve heard others talk about – the importance of allowing ourselves to be bored, especially if we are a creative person.

That’s right – actually having nothing to do can be a blessing to us, not a curse.

When we are bored we stop, look around us, and find inspiration. When we are bored our brains wander and when our brains wander, they often stumble on creative, interesting ideas.

It’s no surprise that some of the greatest innovations of our time came during a time in life when things moved slower and there were fewer distractions from technology.

Technology is a double-edged sword for creativity. It benefits us by connecting us to so many, getting our creations seen by others, and by adding a different dynamic to how we create. But technology also hampers us by filling our brains with so much information and distraction that we rarely slow down to simply listen to our own hearts and visions. And if we are too wrapped up in technology it will actually completely suffocate our creative voice.

Many of us are guilty of being addicted to social media. As easily as we can find ourselves trapped in a Youtube spiral (where we jump from video to video until we are bleary-eyed) we can find ourselves falling down the rabbit hole of comparison when we follow several artists in our particular medium. Even if we are not comparing when we are on social media, we are easily distracted on sites like Facebook and Instagram, so much so that we may find ourselves wasting most of our day on our phone or sitting at our computer and that is time we could have been using to create and truly experience life.

I recently downloaded a book into my Kindle by Manoush Zomorodi, a journalist who found herself face-to-face with boredom in 2007 when her first child was born and never wanted to sleep. The iPhone had just started to become popular (can you believe it’s only been about 10 or 11 years since the iPhone/smartphone started taking over our world?!) and she found herself walking several miles a day to help the baby sleep. As she walked her mind wandered and she began to dream of what she would do when she could sleep and work again. She came up with ideas of how she could work at home while also being a mother and all went well until she started using the smartphone everyone else was using; to help make her life and work easier.

She found that every “down moment” she had was filled with wasting time on the phone and that left little time for imagining or thinking about new ideas. So when it came time to create for the podcast she had conceived while at home with her baby, her brain was empty. She realized that one reason she didn’t have any more new ideas was that she was never bored. She never gave her brain any time to rest.

After talking to neuroscientists about what happens when we are bored, she learned it is during those down times that our brains create new neural connections. When our brains are quiet they look back at our lives, create a personal narrative, and make plans for our future and for future projects, she was told.

The problem is that many of us never give ourselves time to be quiet and let our brain decompress, Zomorodi points out. We keep our brains busy constantly. We don’t simply watch a television show anymore. We watch a show while doing reports on our computer or listening to a podcast and scrolling through Facebook. Not only is this detrimental to us from a mental standpoint, but it’s also detrimental to us physically, for a variety of reasons, which Zomorodi details in her book and in her TED Talk.

When it comes to creativity we need those moments of boredom even more. We need periods of boredom to think, to imagine and to hear our inner, creative voice.

Many of us, myself included, equate boredom to laziness. This could not be further from the truth, as Zomorodi learned and many researchers are learning. And beyond what “experts” are learning, you can learn it yourself.

You’re not being lazy when you’re contemplating, working out creative ideas or thinking about what you hope for your future.

You’re letting your brain have the space it needs to open doors to creativity.

To hear more about Zomorodi’s findings, you can see her TED talk below or find her book, “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self.”

Quieting the creative voices of others so you can hear your own

I fell into one of those Youtube spirals the other night (like one does) and I caught an interview from last year with Ellen and Bradley Cooper. Ellen asks Bradley if he is on social media at all, although she admits she already knows he isn’t. When he says “No, I’m not.” she feigns shock and says “Oh my gosh. What do you even do with yourself?”
He laughs, shrugs and mumbles something about being able to waste a lot of time on the internet without social media. But really, a better answer, since he was there to talk about a movie he was filming, would have been, “I create.”
“A Star is Born” comes out this week and Bradley both stars in it and directed it. If he had been sitting around wasting his life on social media, getting distracted by the drama and ridiculousness that can be found on it, he might never have made the movie or made the music for it along with Lady Gaga and Luke Nelson.
Lady-Gaga-and-Bradley-Cooper-in-A-Star-is-Born-2018-670x335Imagine all the books and paintings and songs we would never have heard if social media had existed earlier than it had. Yes, there are good things about social media for a creative. We can share our creations and our art to a wider audience and immediately. But what we lose in that immediate interaction is taking the time to really develop and plan our craft before we throw it to the world. What we lose is the time to actually create because we are distracted by looking at either the work of others or the drama of others.
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We are squelching our inner voice because we can’t hear it over the shouts and creations of others. We are comparing and contrasting and then going back to our creative work, thinking we can’t create as well as the others we’ve seen. Or maybe we think can do the same, but end up disappointing because we never give ourselves time to really develop the skills we need to create, as well as, or better than, those we admire.
Bradley Cooper worked with a voice coach, musicians and others for almost a year and a half,l before creating what many are calling a masterpiece. He had a vision and he put the work in to complete and present that vision.
If he had wasted his time on the distraction that comes with social media, he may have never reached his goal of creating something he is extremely proud of.
Though I don’t know what Bradley Cooper’s personal reasons for not being on social media are I do think abstaining from it strengthens his creative voice. It’s something other creative people, or anyone with a goal they want to reach, should try as well.