Disposable creativity produces mediocre art.
The statement above was prompted by two unrelated blog posts. One was by a friend, Deane Patterson, (@ReceiverITW – check out his ambient electronica) a creative friend, and an article from an educational website: What Schools Can Learn from Digital Photography.
Two lines of thinking came out of these posts:
- why should I create when EVERYONE can do it, and,
- the digital age is a great way for students (and people) to experiment and fail (and thereby learn).
One aspect Deane was talking about was the proliferation of photography; every person who owns a mobile phone has access to a camera. Photography is considered “easy” or “simple” or “anyone can take a picture.” Whack a filter on it and hey presto, pro photographer.
The digital revolution has changed the ease by which we can be creative. In “What Schools Can Learn From Digital Photography,” the premise is the ease at which students can learn quickly in a digital medium. Take a multitude of images and delete what you don’t want. The fear of failure is lessened.
I think this attitude is a disservice to pro photographers who have laboured to develop their understanding of the craft and endeavour to produce excellent photographs. In this digital age, the need for learning and refinement is lost because mistakes are easy to make and easy to delete.
In the same way writers are faced with the same problem. It is now easy to produce a book in a digital format. However, it is easier (in most cases) to tell the amateur from the professional in terms of structural aspects, typos, punctuation errors etc. However, essentially the problem is the same: it is “easy” to publish a book.
Why should I create when everyone else is doing it? How can I tell the difference between amateur and professional?
I see this as a problem.
Digital now means disposable.
It’s easy to learn in the digital age.
It’s easy to fail in the digital age.
If you don’t like it, delete it.
I believe everyone can and should be creative.
I don’t believe creativity should be considered disposable. Everyone should be encouraged to be creative, to try and fail. But they must be prepared to learn from their mistakes.
What is not asked is “How do I learn from my mistakes?”
Disposable creativity lessens the importance of the process and threatens to cheapen the quality of the finished creative work.
In the digital realm:
Lesser risk = lesser risk of failure = lesser learning experience
Creativity and great art should be considered as:
Greater risk = greater chance of failure = greater learning experience
Disposable art is mediocre art.
Great art requires investment in terms of time, commitment, learning and fiance. Great art also requires refinement; for a writer it’s the process of drafting, editing, rewriting, polishing.
In terms of finance (the support of artistic endeavours through patronage or the purchase of creative works: painting, books, music etc) the commodification of creativity is not under debate here, but the impetus to create is. And it is an impetus to create great books, plays, movies, music, paintings and sculpture et al.
Great art is developed when the composer takes great risks, knowing that if they fail, there is a substantial lesson to be learned. There is a great need for creative people to take risks, but it must be at a cost, not the simple act of deleting, disposing or throwing away.
There is a place for acts of throwaway creativity. But creativity, and great art, should also be about deeper learning.
We owe it to ourselves and to our audience to create great works of art, lest we become a generation of creatives who are disposable heroes of mediocrity.