|My greatest creative challenge is remembering there are no rules I must follow.|
Why does so much virtual world art and machinima have a similar look and feel? Is it because of platform constraints? Or maybe it's due more to imitation and incestuous inbreeding in creative communities. Both of those factors apply, but I think it's more a reflection of the psychological limitations that constrain almost every aspect of our lives.
We tend to do the same things over and again, year after year, usually without question. Over time, the infinite vista of our human potential gets narrowed to a point. We traverse time-worn paths until we've worn ruts so deep that we're in over our heads and can no longer see, little alone imagine, alternate paths. Occasionally we meet someone who's made a major intentional change in their mid-life or senior years. But they're a minority. Unfortunately, personal transformation usually requires some sort of signficant calamity such as a serious illness, job loss or other externally caused change.
We come to this sad state honestly. We have been coerced to conform since birth and baked within an educational system designed to produce cookie-cutter workers and consumers. Our culture idolizes innovation in technology, but is very intolerant of people who take more than a step or two outside of the norm. There is pressure to conform in our jobs, our social circles and our communities. But there is one sanctuary free of external pressure to comply: Our amateur creative lives. The only things holding us back in the sanctity of our studio space are the voices in our own heads.
One of the first things I loved about avatar identity was its power to facilitate positive personal change and creativity. But over time I've learned that it's just as easy to get stuck in the rut of one's virtual life as it is in the atomic. Many of the creatives I've known who were very creative two or three years ago have either left the virtual world or are now self-plagiarizing their initial breakthroughs. I often catch myself mining my past instead of creating a new future.
I've found that one quick way to get out of a creative rut is to try new tools or platforms. Personally, I've found that the more restrictive a tool, the more I'm forced to innovate. For instance, shoot your computer screen with your smart phone and edit it with a mobile application. Or try a new virtual world for your next project where you have less resources and expertise. Or jump out of the medium entirely and try your hand at a 100 word story, a series of themed tweets or even (gasp) a physical world medium.
I'm not speaking to the handful of professional artists who are perfecting their chosen craft and building careers. My advice is for the rest of us, the 99% who are creating as amateurs for the intrinsic value of the process. Our creative work is not simply a means to express ourselves, but also a practice that allows us to see ourselves and the world around us in new ways.
Try something new tonight. You'll thank me in the morning.