No Barriers

“What do you like most about the Internet?”

Me: “Exploring ideas…”
Rich: “
Write about that.”

The Internet presents no obstacles to creativity. It’s an outlet where all the restrictions of daily life are relaxed and, for the most part, I can do whatever I damn well please.

When I first got this assignment, I struggled for a long time. In early drafts, I went down some egotistical paths, writing about my various online projects, and so on. But reliving my success isn’t why I love the Internet – nor does it explain what I get out of its madness.

The fact is, I love the Internet because it’s playtime. Recess. Recreation. Other synonyms for unencumbered activity.

What do I do?

I take the ideas that I have all day and see how far I can push them. Start a blog based on jokes, post some flash fiction and see where the story ends up, review some movies in character. Whatever. The Internet lets me maintain a level of creativity comparable to that of a child.

Think about it. Say you’re 12 years old, outside for recess. All your buddies are around and you organize an impromptu game of tag and see who’s best. Maybe it’s a game of blob tag.  Maybe the rules don’t exist yet.  Anyone up for a game of cloud tag? How about dinosaur tag… or ninja tag?  Or maybe you ditch tag entirely and try to one up each other with knock-knock jokes.

The web is like that playground, it’s immediate interaction and feedback gives you a forum to do that sort of thing all over again, to test your ideas against the community in real-time. To see what sticks (and what’s lame.) This sort of connection was previously limited to water coolers or… I don’t know… bowling leagues.

Where’s the beef?

This grownup playground allows us to explore our ideas without any say-so from someone else.  It’s a place to recharge our creative batteries. It’s hard enough to be creative on demand. The pressure and weight of being tasked with “coming up with an idea” is immense. The controlled panic is usually something I try to compartmentalize, siphoning the nervous energy into the idea engine. But when I get home and the pressure’s off… executing ideas keeps me from burning out.

It seems counter-intuitive to revive yourself from the hard work of creative thinking by coming home and doing it some more. But it helps. The unstructured environment lets you spread your wings and reinforces the gut feeling that you’re creative and prolific. If you don’t believe me, give it a shot. Or go do some research. There are studies showing that kids with more recess and unstructured play do better in class and develop better problem-solving skills.

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

The upshot of all this is that while you’re decompressing, you’re still practicing ideation and execution; becoming that much sharper (perhaps even expanding your skillset).

I’ll give you an example: I have a pet project drawing maps of make believe places. I told an Art Director friend of mine that I considered this a part of my “writing process.” Naturally, she didn’t follow; so I explained to her that it was an action that fueled my ability to imagine, and was therefore a component of any written work that might come out of the world I was creating. In that sense, fooling around in Illustrator was “writing” for me because it was a step along the path… Llke moodboards before a website or blueprints before a house.

When you get home from work, fire up the computer and play creative director for a while. It’s the difference between redlining and cruising. Take it easy playing with ideas tonight so you can hit the finish line with some tomorrow.

Image Credit: John Spence