Buckle up, y’all.
I recently did a digital housekeeping thing, and it was ahhh-mazing. Ready for it?
I deleted all* of the photos in the “Screenshots” album on my phone. 10,000+ photos gone. I feel like a giant weight has been lifted from my phone’s hard drive and my creative soul. Wait, my soul? Yep, my soul.
Screenshots are kind of like my Pinterest, except without all of the organization and links and some (many) are duplicates. Plus, some are fuzzy because I occasionally screenshot from videos. GUILTY.
Oh, and before we go any further: if you say you don’t use the screenshot feature on your phone, I don’t believe you. And no, you don’t have to do it for nefarious reasons! Everyone does it and they do it for various reasons. I, for example, screenshot ideas wherever I find them…just like re-pinning something on Pinterest.
Do you ever find yourself scrolling through Instagram and thinking:
Ooh, look! This person did a giant installation with wood and acrylic and fabric dyeing and there’s somehow a bacon bar in there, too – let me screenshot that so I can drool over it later.
No. Way. How did she even get her ink to stick on that surface?! I’ve been trying to do that for ages. I’ll have to come back to that later and see if I can figure it out.
Gah, that calligraphy is gorgeous and that paper is even more amazing! If I buy paper like that then I’ll be able to create beautiful pieces like her, too. (<- that thought is a problem on its own, but we can talk about that in another blog post.)
Do you see a pattern here? Later. That’s exactly how I treat Pinterest: I’ll pin these gorgeous pictures, then at some unknown time when I feel like looking at pictures I’ve already written a mental dissertation on, I’ll come back and look at them some more. You know, as one does.
This has been getting worse over the last several years, when I was scouring the web for inspiration for calligraphy, stationery and decor. When I happened to look at my albums this morning (which I almost never do) and I saw 10,000+ screenshots, my jaw dropped. How did I accumulate that many? When have I even gone back to look at these?! (answer: never.)
Then I asked myself a better question: How are these screenshots helping me be my most creative, authentic self?
Now, I know the word authentic gets thrown around a lot these days. I find it most often used on hipster Instagram accounts and blogs, or when creative businesses are trying to sell you their marketing services to elevate your brand. (And I’m guilty of having used that trendy word on several occasions, too!) But when I say authentic, I don’t mean what your mind probably automatically goes to. I mean UNIQUE. I mean UNAPOLOGETICALLY YOU. If that is minimalistic photos of succulents on a bright pink background at Joshua Tree, that’s great (but it probably isn’t, to be brutally honest).
So when I asked myself that question, I got a pretty firm and resounding, “NO, these screenshots are definitely not making me my most creative self.”
In fact, they were holding me back.
I wasn’t creating from my heart anymore, I was creating based on what I saw others doing. And if you didn’t know this already, creating based on others’ successes is the creative kiss of death.
I remember going to the library to be inspired. I flipped through hundreds of books to see photos from faraway times or places, and read some of my most life-changing texts (books, not phone texts 😉 ). Everything was neat and tidy in rows of books, and the information was only made available to you if you asked for it. Now, we’re so inundated with photos and articles and blogs and podcasts and texts in everything we do all day that we can barely keep our heads above water. We certainly can’t keep up with all of that stimuli.
My point is that by saving all of these photos of other people’s work, even though I didn’t look at them, I was limited myself to think like them and produce products that fit a certain look. And that’s not good for any artist or creative.
My challenge to you is to do some digital housekeeping of your own. Delete your screenshots album. Delete unnecessary photos. It doesn’t have to be all in one sitting, and you don’t have to delete anything that genuinely makes you happy…but if you come across any screenshot or photo that makes your eye twitch with envy, send it to the digital trash bin. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!
Get rid of all of those pictures that hold your creativity back, because they will stop you from doing beautiful, AUTHENTIC work. I think you might be surprised how light you feel after that (not to mention, how much faster your phone might be!)
When you do that, come back and tell me how you feel. Did you feel a little hesitant while you were doing it? (I know I did!) What other “housekeeping” tips and tricks have you picked up to make your creative process easier or more streamlined?
*almost all. I kept the screenshots of photos my friends and family took at our wedding, various client photos of my work, funny text message bits from 2012, and cat pictures my husband sends me. I mean, those all have to stay, right?