Creative Failure: Being Creative for Creative’s Sake

The explosion of software programs make creativity a lot easier that it used to be.  When I started in television, we had to create print graphics – white letters on black cards – and shoot them and chroma-key them over the video.  And getting graphics to move?  That was funky.  In those days there were no character generators, Photoshop, or After Effects.

Today, creativity is still an art, but it’s much easier to execute.  As a result, there’s a lot of creative people out there doing amazing things.  The only problem is, there’s too often no point to their work.

The best creatives use their ability to serve a greater good.  It’s one thing to be flashy, shoot hand-held, and use edgy animation, but it’s quite another to make those techniques actually mean something and tell a story.  Their work has meaning beyond being “cool.”  It’s been true for thousands of years, and you can see it from the earliest Greek sculptures, to Renaissance paintings, to the novels, movies, and music of today.

By all means, be creative.  But don’t do it just to make something look cool.  Ask yourself:  What am I really trying to communicate?  Does shooting it hand-held convey that message better than shooting on a tripod?  What does my lighting style say about the story?  What style of graphics and special effects best communicate my message?

When you move beyond creative for creative’s sake, your work will take on a whole new meaning.

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  1. How about the idea of being creative for creative’s sake, but doing so to discover new techniques? Granted, this certainly should be done in moderation in relation to meaningful work, but isn’t there value in exploring ways to grow in personal talent and techniques? I know that I’ve had times where I’ve told a story that wasn’t exactly something that is impactful, but I did so to grow as a filmmaker/cinematographer.

    1. Good thought Adam. There’s a place for “creative R&D” but the fact is, if you’re working for a client, you need to make sure your creative work delivers every time. As long as you do the “exploring” on your own time, then it will work….!

  2. I know what you mean. It seems like people will spend an enormous amount of time on something that has conveys no message or has any practical purpose other than being able to tell their friends, “Look what I can do.”

  3. One way to look at it is as play, that is prepping to work, and work. Another way is that actions can be done as expressions of thanks and worship, besides their utility.

  4. I used to create just to create and lost my passion to create. I understand the purpose of having meaning to creating and how it can cost you your joy, if you are doing it for no real reason at all except to create. I’m allowing God to refocus my reason so I can again, create with a passion… and purpose.

  5. You’re dead on with this. Watched an interview with Dr. CornelWest that had probably been filmed by students. Camera moved around about as much as a Bourne sequel, the continually played with the focus. They tried too hard to be “artsy” and it only distracted people from the real focus of the piece – the man who was being interviewed.
    “Function should dictate form” in most cases, and being overly creative is often just being inappropriately showy in an attempt to draw attention. And if camera work, lighting, or editing draw attention to themselves, that’s when they’ve failed!

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