Reclaiming Creative Autonomy in the Era of Pinterest & Endless Content

Is Pinterest – arguably the creative person’s mecca online – killing creative thinking? It feels – to me at least – like it’s been a long time since I’ve had an original thought: one that didn’t stem from a Pin. I could argue that it isn’t true, or that everybody’s ideas come from somewhere – the old adage about great artists being expert thieves and all that. But nevertheless I feel like an impostor and a plagiarist.

What’s the problem with taking ideas from Pinterest?

If people put their ideas up on Pinterest to share, then what’s the problem? In a word: ennui. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a wedding reception this year and seen the tell-tale Pinterest sign – literally a sign, a beautiful chalkboard calligraphy sign, that says: “Pick a seat, not a side.” (You know you’ve seen it too!)

And so what? It’s adorable. The message is kind. But the surprise factor is gone. I wonder if it’s even necessary to tell people to pick a seat, after they’ve seen it so much? It seems like a generic addition rather than the customized wow-factor they were going for.

But it’s not really the sign that bothers me, nor is it really my friends’ use of Pinterest that I judge. It’s my own. It troubles me that people could walk into my home, attend my wedding – or worse, read something I wrote – and think, “I know exactly where she got that idea from.”

The Internet is changing how we “do” creative thinking – and have creative experiences.

Nowadays when we want to do anything –plan a party, get a tattoo, decorate a room, cut your hair, give a gift, write a novel – our instinct is to go online.

Whatever the scenario, in a few mere clicks, we can tumble down the endless rabbit hole of results and tuck away ideas. I like to leave notes for myself on how to tweak them to “make them my own” – but are they really my own? Or just a different shade of someone else’s?

It feels like the internet – which thrives on new content, new ideas, innovation – is a creative platform for the select few – and if you’re not insistent and deliberate about adding your own material to the mix, you become an endless consumer, not a creative contributor. And even if you don’t care to contribute (let’s face it, not every has time to blog), has the veritable barrage of others’ ideas overwhelmed the need – even the desire – to come up with our own ideas?

Stop. Think for yourself. Envision.

For me, it has. So I’ve set about trying to reclaim my creative autonomy – but old habits die hard. Lucky for me, (deep in the throes of wedding planning), there are plenty of opportunities to flex my creative brain. So far, I’ve done tried a good old fashioned pen to paper brainstorming session. When inspiration was elusive, I ask myself:

  • What do you like or dislike? Hate?
  • What are you craving?
  • If money or time was no object, what would be possible?
  • What do you already have that you can work with?
  • What feeling do you want to evoke?
  • If it were a colour/taste/texture/sound, what would it be?
  • What does it need to be or do?
  • What are the limitations? Dimensions?

Gather information organically.

But in the gulf of my Pinterest hiatus, I’m scrambling for sources of inspiration; it would seem that one way or another, something needs to spark my ideas or get the conversation started. Instead of seeking out fully formed ideas (say, from magazines or movie scenes), I’m challenging myself to look for organic visuals in peculiar places – dumpsters and old photos and the changing seasons. Maybe instead of finding inspiration for my bridesmaid dresses on Pinterest, I’ll browse a fabric store and fall in love with a particular colour, pattern, or texture. Is that so different from saving a Pin? Maybe not. But I think I’ll get more satisfaction out of the final product.

And no one will be able to say, “I saw that exact same thing online!”