an open letter to bloggers, artists, and anyone vaguely creative (including myself)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Internet fasts. Have you noticed them? The trend these days has been to take a break from the internet to refresh the mind because creative work lately has all been the same. The idea is that being inspired by other people is causing this creative sameness; that instead we should be inspired by life. But I want to tell you that I believe in inspiration. Inspiration is not a terrible thing, and I want you to know that. You shouldn’t avoid being inspired. You should avoid copying.

I like to think of inspiration as sharing an idea.
“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” ––George Bernard Shaw
 Inspiration should be like a train of thought, a piece of creative work by one artist sparks a piece of creative work by another artist, which sparks a piece of creative work by another artist and so on. But these days, inspiration has seemed more like “I loved this creative piece created by this artist, so I decided to create it, too.” Inspiration shouldn’t work like that. I think a lot of comes from the fact that we live in a world where things come quickly and we don’t like to wait. Patience is lacking. But if you’re going to be an artist, you’re going to have to be willing to put in the work. Taking the finished product of a favorite artist and doing your own version of it is so easy. But creativity isn’t always easy, at least not at the beginning. You have to be willing to work hard. The problem isn’t that inspiration is hurting us. The problem is that our perception of inspiration has been altered because we want so badly to be like certain other artists. Letting the work of others influence your work is not a bad thing. But YOU have to influence your work, too. Continually taking from other artists when no one bringing anything new to the table has resulted in this sameness in the creative world. Instead of passing along ideas, we’re passing along final works of art.

The problem with inspiration is that it isn’t what we’ve made it out to be. Or what we’ve grown to think it is. Being inspired is getting an idea from one thing to make something else. An emotion or thought that sparks an idea for something new and beautiful. I don’t think there should be a distinction between being inspired by life and being inspired by other artists. Inspiration is inspiration. You should never try to stop it, because inspiration is a wonderful thing. Just don’t let your perception of inspiration blend with your desire to become the same artist as someone else. That artist already exists. Artists (especially new ones) need to know that their ideas matter. The world needs your art, not another version of the art someone else has already created. Let the work of others give you ideas (get inspired!) but make sure the world can hear your voice. You’ve got to bring something to the table. You’ve got to become your own artist.


Another type of internet fast going on is taking a break to make time for more important things. I think this is great; it’s wonderful! But I’m not taking one because, for me, the internet is always going to be part of my life. I use it for school. I use it to connect with friends. I use it to create things. So taking an internet fast so that I can focus more on other things feels like I’m telling myself that I can either have one or the other. And that’s crazy! If it's something that's important, it needs to be part of my everyday life, but the internet inevitably also needs to be part of my everyday life. I need to find a way to make time everyday for both. Internet fasts are always going to be temporary. But if I’m having trouble making time for reading God’s word, that really doesn’t have much to do with being on the internet too much. The problem there is that I don’t have a strong enough desire to read and learn from The Bible. And that has nothing to do with the internet! It might take some cutting back from the being online, but I don't want to get it in my head that I can only have one at a time.

I believe that internet fasts can be really great things, but a lot of times I find them the be irrational. When we do something like take an internet fast, it needs to be completely intentional and of our own decision. If a bunch of your friends are taking a break from blogging and the internet, don’t feel like you need to, too. Everybody is dealing with their own struggles in their life. You don’t have to be feeling the same way as everyone else. The need to take an internet break isn’t required to be a good blogger or a good artist. And you need to know that. If you feel like you need to take an internet break, then I encourage you so much to take one. They can be really good things. But make sure it’s actually you who needs to take an internet break, not just the desire inside you that wants so badly to be a replica of your favorite artist or your idolized blogger. You need to do the things that you feel are right. Don’t let the needs of others convince you that you have the same needs. You’re different from everybody else and that is a fantastic thing.

It seems like if somebody says something intelligently, we’ll listen to them. We’ll take it as fact and we’ll try to start living that way. But it’s important to decide if you believe in what they’re saying. Just because something sounds pretty or smart doesn’t mean that it’s right. You don’t have to agree with everything everyone says. And we’re all humans. Anyone of us could be wrong at anytime in our lives. And we just need to be open to that fact. Someone can have different ideas about creativity that maybe you don't agree with, and that's fine. Everyone is entitled to their own ideas. Just don't be afraid to have your own.

Blogging lately has been really hard. Being a blogger can be extremely high-pressure. We tend to be incredibly concerned with pleasing people. A lot of blogging blocks have been hit because of this pressure and it can cause us to be fake and it can keep us from creating the best quality of work. Mostly, this happens because we’re afraid of what people will think. We’re afraid of how our photography, writing, or creative work will be received by our readers. Often, we’re just so crippled by the expectations. Jocee and I have been talking a lot about blogging lately (our conversation a few days ago is what majorly sparked this post), and on her Facebook page, she asked “comment and tell me one thing you would post about if you weren't worried about what feedback you'd get.” It was such a nice thought...that I could post about anything. But that thing of it is: I actually can, because this is my blog. And if everyone posted the things they really, deep down, wanted to share, it would show so much of their personality and who they are and I feel like that’s what blogging should be like. We shouldn’t worry how people will treat what we create. If you have something to share, share it. Peggy Kopman-Owens said, “If you stay true to your vision, you will find an audience.” If you like what you create, there is somebody else out there that will like it too.

One thing that we really have to be open to is the fact that everybody isn’t going to love everything we create. We’re trying so hard to please everyone when it isn’t even possible. WE CANNOT PLEASE EVERYONE. We shouldn’t be focused on pleasing other people. If we genuinely enjoy what we’re creating, that’s all that matters. Don’t create what you think you should be creating. Create what you want to create.

It feels like we’ve gotten to this point where we aren’t even really blogging anymore. The dictionary says that a blog is “a personal website or web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis.” A blog should be for sharing, not for impressing people. It seems like everyone is looking for attention instead of just being happy with what they’ve created. We’re looking for approval from other people. But it doesn’t matter if an extremely popular blogger tells you that your photography is lovely. It doesn’t matter if your favorite blogger tells you that your writing is beautiful. Creative works are meant to make people feel something. If you feel something while you’re creating it and if you feel something while looking at the finished product, other people are going to feel something, too. But not everyone. The point is to create things that matter to you. Everything creative seems so dry these days, and it’s because we’re so focused on impressing other people that we’ve stopped creating things that matter. If you’re going to share something with someone, make sure it actually matters to you.

I feel like so many of us are in this huge blogging rut where, sure, things are pretty, but they don’t really mean anything. A post full of photographs and a few pretty words is nice to look at, but does it make you feel anything when you’re writing it? Do the people you share it with feel anything when they read it or look at it? I am so sick and tired of just making things look nice when they have absolutely no value to me. I want to create things that matter. We keep posting over and over about inspiration and branding and being real and what we want our blogs to be like...but I just want to blog. I feel like I’m not even a real blogger because I keep posting about blogging, but I’m not really doing it. And I guess what this is all trickling down to is that I just want to actually blog. No fear of what people will think, and not a second-rate version of what someone else has already done. I want to share things that are actually mine. Things that I created. I want to share creative work that actually matters to me.

And I just want you to know that you can, too.

xo | Megan

p.s. Long comments are literally one of my most favorite things. If you wrote me a novel-length comment full of your wonderful thoughts, I'd probably cry of happiness. I love having discussions with you guys and I love hearing your thoughts. So if you have something to say, please say it in the comments. (or email me.) I want to hear. You guys are awesome.

38 comments:

  1. You are so smart. For real.

    " One thing that we really have to be open to is the fact that everybody isn’t going to love everything we create. We’re trying so hard to please everyone when it isn’t even possible. WE CANNOT PLEASE EVERYONE."
    This really hits home with me. I have realized I can't mix what God wants me to do (aka create the art he made me to create) AND make people happy. I feel like so many artist are driven by fear.
    Thanks for writing this! So encouraging. I enjoyed it a lot.



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    1. Galatians 6:4-5, The Message translation says, "Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life." I really love this verse. Definitely agree with what you said –– the creative work we do should glorify God. He's given each of us a special gift. We're focusing on making art for other people when God calls us to make it for him.

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  2. I JUST LOVE YOU SO MUCH RIGHT NOW & I WANT TO HUG YOU OKAY. GAH. I'm sending you an email. <3

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  3. This is awesome and so encouraging! Comparing myself to others and wanting to be just like certain bloggers is something I struggle with a lot. I want to stop comparing and start being different. :)

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    1. Thank you for writing this! I really needed it. :)

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  4. What a great and honest post. I totally agree with you, and hope that this helps other bloggers pull themselves out of a rut, and help them to find their own voice within. :)

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  5. I'M GOING TO POST MINE SOON
    MAYBE TODAY OR TOMORROW
    I ALREADY GAVE YOU MY THOUGHTS AND IT'S SO HARD TO SAY THEM AGAIN HERE SO I'M JUST GOING TO LET YOU REREAD OUR MASSIVELY LONG FB CONVERSATIONS
    anyways.
    hi, my name is jocelyn, and YEAH OUR CONVERSATION SPARKED THIS BLOG POST.
    AND YEAH I'M WRITING COMMENTS IN BASIC ALL CAPS WITH EMOTICONS ;);););) (y)(y)(y)
    <3 :P

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  6. Thanks so much for posting. This is something I always try to avoid - but I really don't know how good I am at it. I mean, the whole point of my blog, the reason I started it, was because I had something to say. And I don't want to clog my archives up with pretty pictures and nice-sounding words just because I wanted to fill the silence. I want my posts to mean something. I dunno...this is something that I've been thinking about a lot, too. And I think you did such a great job of capturing it in words. Lots of words. I love words. <3

    There's a long comment for you. ;) Keep being real, Megan. (does anyone ever call you Megs? Just 'cuz I'm curious.)

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    1. I love words too ;)
      I am VERY rarely called megs, but I definitely don't mind nicknames.

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  7. Loved this post. I was just thinking about this the other day, and how often we are so concerned with what other people think.
    -Laura

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  9. THANK YOU
    THANK YOU
    THANK YOU

    oh my gosh, megan, i was just talking about this with Joc (who is very appropriately writing her comment in basic all-caps with emoticons) the other day. you could not have said it better. ugh, this is getting bookmarked. LOOOOVE.

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    1. YEAH I'M APPROPRIATELY BEING VIRTUALLY LOUD
      YEAH I BOOKMARKED THIS PAGE TOO
      #WINNING (i'm going crazy #holla)

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  10. i like your spirit and i love how hard you work. thank you for this.

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  11. oh & i love your voice. c:

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    1. Thank you :)
      I recorded this like 3 times...after the second recording, I was like this sounds good enough, I'm tired of working on it. But then I had literally JUST gotten done saying that creativity takes hard work, so I ran it through one more time. #3 was significantly better than before. Gotta walk the talk. haha.

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  12. PERFECT. (your voice + everything)

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  13. Wow. Just wow. Thank you so, so much. I have been feeling this lately, but I couldn't really form my thoughts into words. You have managed to state things so perfectly in this post. Thank you so, so, so much.

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    1. I hate that feeling of not being able to express thoughts into words. When Jocee and I were talking about this through fb chat, and we were like "WE NEED TO POST ABOUT THIS." I was at first really hesitant because I knew it was going to be really hard transferring my jumbled ideas into a well formed post. I wrote it out on paper, typed it into a document, and then transferred it to the posting section and revised. Even when I posted it, I still felt like it was quite rambley. Glad y'all understand me, though :)
      Basically, the point of that was even if it seems hard to put thoughts into words, just try for a while and it might work out, and even if you're rambling a little, your readers will probably still understand. ;)

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  14. basically I listened to this.
    and now I'm listening to this again.
    and I'll probably listen to this again.
    it's like harry potter. just one time is impossible.

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    1. (also I've been thinking of reading a post aloud for the longest time and I haven't cause I'm scared of what my in-person friends will think but now I think I will because you like inspired me and stuff and now I'm excited to do it and why does this comment have no punctuation what are you doing hands)

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    2. DO IT ABBY! I follow your blog and I would LOVE if you read a post out loud! :)

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    3. the fact that you just compared this to harry potter...................ahaha.
      If you did I would probably die of happiness because like I haven't even heard your voice very much but from your vlogs it sounds cool and it would be really magical so i think you should and blah who cares about punctuation.

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  15. nhdjfbxmndf just read jocee's now i read yours. both epicness..
    how did you have the courage to read the post aloud?..... #respect

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    1. it went like this "Hey jocee so I might read my post aloud..." "you should do it. I dare you." "like I think it could be fun/cool and I have a nice mic and stuff." "DO IT." So I did. It took like 3 times, but I liked how it turned out. Switchin' it up cuz i can.

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  16. Definitely like your honesty. I feel like true art/creativity has to be sincere, or it's something else altogether.

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  17. "It was such a nice thought...that I could post about anything. But that thing of it is: I actually can, because this is my blog."

    I love that so much. I remember when I first started blogging -- I was so incredibly excited about what I was doing, what I was sharing. But as followed other blogs, I began to imitate the content that I saw on more popular sites. I started just posting pretty words to go with pretty pictures. Though I gained more followers, I basically sacrificed my creativity. And because of that, blogging/reading blogs was no longer enjoyable for me. Everything was the same everywhere I looked, and it was tedious.

    But anywho, thank you for this. You've inspired me to write about what I want, whether that's what I did last Saturday, politics, or the oxymoron that is fat free chocolate. ;P

    Thanks again.

    ~ Abby

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    1. YES. it seems like we're all looking back to our early days of blogging, and I LOVE it. When we all started out, it was just for fun and we posted about what we wanted to. If we took that carefree mindset and added it to the quality of work we've grown to be able to do, think of the outcome. It would be wonderful.

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  18. Megan,
    Beautiful post!! I agree!!

    Allison

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  19. yes.
    Yes.
    YES.
    YES!

    WOW. Um, so basically, this whole thing is so relevant and needed. I was a little on the fence about this whole thing, I see "blogging fasts", "I need to focus on real life", and "I'm going to stop being inspired by other people and start being inspired by life" all over. I just agree with this post SO MUCH. You rock. :)

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  20. oh gawsh, this hits home SO hard. i don't have a blog as of yet, but this crippling fear of not being accepted literally permeates every inch of my creative, social, personal, and even spiritual life. people-pleasing is a hard trait to get rid of, but oh-so worth it when you realize the freedom you have to just be YOU and create what YOU like and what makes YOU feel alive. this post is so good. thank you, megan, for sharing this!!

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    1. You should start a blog! (if you want to) I'm sure it'd be lovely. Just don't be afraid of what people will thinking. If you like it, other people will too.

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  21. Do you want me to tell you how many times I will read this over the course of the next five years? Do you want to know how many times I've ALREADY read this post? This really hits home for me, because I get caught up in the race of blogging. The art of copying. Not being the real me. I thank you a thousand, million times over for this post. Thank you thank you thank you. You inspire me, and are encouraging me to be ME. Thank you, Megan dear. :) Just keep on creating for God's glory.

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  22. well, i don't blog, but never say never. i do struggle with taking time to be creative, and with my own expectations while doing so. love your words, and i love that you included your great-grandfathers' guitar in the pic for this post. he would be so proud if he knew you!

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  23. Ok, wow. The thing is, my main blog is private and I have like 3 followers and zero comments, and this even inspired ME!

    "Creative works are meant to make people feel something. If you feel something while you’re creating it and if you feel something while looking at the finished product, other people are going to feel something, too"

    Ahhh I loved this part. Because sometimes it's just so easy to skip the writings or photographs that give me deep-down feels because people are going to think me weird, right? But agh, I should post them, I should actually create things that give me chills down my spin and lovely spinning thoughts. Things that really. matter. Blog for myself and what I love. I guess it's just hard sometimes, because when you do that, you really are revealing who you are in such an honest, blunt way.

    But, it's good I think.

    Thank you, Megan.

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  24. "...we live in a world where things come quickly and we don’t like to wait. Patience is lacking." Um, YES. Very, very true. It's a problem.

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because comments = happiness.