It might sound cliche, but it’s ever so true:
“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
Sometimes this adage is easier said than done, though. To be yourself, you have to figure out who you really are. If we’re being honest, most of us spend our whole lives figuring it out, then realizing we didn’t have it all figured out, then searching again.
That process is what I want to talk about today, on how to guard your own creative process while searching and figuring things out. Whether you’re planning a wedding, decorating your home, or running your own business, how can you be sure that the story you’re writing for yourself is an original; not a diminished revision from someone else?
Be choosy about your inspiration.
A wedding planner I admire once shared that she is very careful not to follow many other wedding planners, especially local ones that share the same market. It was brilliant advice that I’ve taken to heart. It’s not that we don’t support others in our respective industries, but what you consume takes hold in the back of your brain and can easily become part of your own creative process. Without even realizing it, you source your inspiration from those closest to you and can unintentionally become a mimic of those around you. Support your closest colleagues by being in community with them, by meeting with them in person to discuss the challenges of your profession, and to celebrate their achievements.
Particularly when you’re just getting started, it can be hard to know where to even start, so you want to look to others in the same boat to get some ideas. Look outside your own circle. Look to the best of the best. Don’t plan a wedding like some Facebook friend from high school. Plan your wedding like Beyonce! Don’t model your website after the restaurant down the street, check out the sites of NYC’s finest eateries. Don’t style your photos like the other photographers in your town, gather ideas from the industry’s top professionals.
Of course, you aren’t likely to have the skill of the top professionals or the budget of Beyonce; this is where your own creativity (and hard work) comes into play.
Gather inspiration from many different sources.
When we gather inspiration from one source and use that as our end all be all to what we would like to create, it becomes a replication of someone else’s dream. Live your own dream, and write your own story. It will be so much better than an impersonation of someone else’s story. Draw your inspiration from a variety of sources, let them blend and meld together in your brain, then bring something new to life.
Curate inspiration from outside of your medium.
When you’re planning a wedding, stop looking at other weddings. Start looking at the things and places around you that you find meaningful and are beautiful to you or your couple. If you’re making wedding videos, stop watching what other wedding videographers are doing and start watching films that are winning awards at Sundance, the Oscars, or local films festivals.
Pay attention to what is going on in the world of art, music, and design. Draw inspiration from historical trends that you’ve always admired. Travel, keep your eyes open. Talk to people; to strangers, family, and friends. Learning to appreciate the unique qualities of everyone and everything around you will help you identify your own individuality.