Sometimes I feel as if I could get more done without a computer.
I just took more than ten weeks to sort out some digital photographs that I took on a weekend trip. Of course, it’s not entirely my fault. I partly blame the digital medium for this, because it is way too easy to click away, at whim, and to take twelve shots where if I were using film would only take one or two. I remember the days when I would go on holiday for a week and come back with two rolls of film (at the most, 72 or so photographs). Each shot would be carefully composed, the exposure measure correctly and the shutter only pressed when I knew it was in focus and the subject in the frame. I would get back home, post off the films and wait a few days for my prints to fall through the letterbox, which would then get filed away neatly after throwing out the handful that didn’t turn out like I hoped. Now I can just about wave my DSLR in the air, hope for the best, and sort out the results when I get home, which invariably takes hours because I had taken thousands of photos in just a couple of days.
What a waste of time!
Of course, there is no way that I would actually like to return to the days of film. A romantic notion, but a completely impractical one. I love my DSLR!
Whether to go digital or analogue – be it for note taking, drawing, photography or a myriad of other jobs – is always a personal choice, and depends on the task at hand. But when it comes to being creative and generating ideas, I do find that a computer can be more of a hindrance than a help (Google images aside…).
When starting a project, any project, the worst thing I can do is open up Photoshop or Illustrator. In fact, the worst thing is using my computer at all.
And I think I just found out why.
The problem lies not just the intimidation of a blank page, but also in the possibilities. I think I got over the blank page problem when drawing with charcoal. The key is to use cheap paper and expect to make a mess. If you have £2-3 for one sheet of paper, you want to make each mark count. When you get paper for free from the local newspaper plant, you can draw rubbish all you like without feeling inhibited.
But when you turn to the computer first, you are inundated with possibilities. All those menu options, thousands of fonts, the growing-with-every-update toolbox and the palette of every colour imaginable. Where do you start?
This is how the pencil and paper work best. There is only one option. You make a mark. A box, a circle, a curve. You don’t have to choose paper size, margins, resolution and so on. You just START!
In the third instalment of his blog series (“C is for Confidence“), Richard Branson tells us “…don’t spend too long fretting about what you are going to do next, just get out there and start.” Branson started out phoning every company he could think of for three years to get funding for a student magazine. Calling people like Coca Cola when you had no idea who to talk to or how to even ask must have been terrifying! He must have needed a creative idea of two. But his solution was to just get on with it. Start somewhere. He had limited resources but he used what he had, which amounted to a Yellow Pages and a telephone.
Having fewer options and fewer resources also means that you have no choice but to make use of what you have. You won’t be distracted by choice but can focus on the problem at hand and make use of what’s available in novel ways. You are forced to see things differently.
While it is tempting to start with applications, menu options and colour palettes, the best way to create new things and get ideas is to limit the options, shut off the technology and use what you have with what you know.
How do you limit yourself to get new ideas?