Being a Maker in the Digital Age

We live in a neat world.

With literally too much information at our fingertips, meaningful community/critique an email away, and an endless sea of images to inspire, intrigue (and to pin!) it is a fascinating time to be an maker. We can research, explore, learn and connect in ways that in ages past would have required a geographical move, or hundreds spent on tuition. Any avenue of experimentation is available, provided we search for it.

However, this wealth of instantaneous resources does come neatly packaged with what can be a rather steep price.

Visual burn out, harsh unfounded self-critique and the risk of feeling swallowed by the vastness of the digital world are just some of the unfortunate byproducts of this age of 1s and 0s. If left unchecked, these reactions can immobilize even the most stalwart of makers, creating a vicious and crippling cycle of unfair comparison and self-doubt.

The balancing act becomes learning to utilize the great and wonderful opportunities of the online environment, while still owning and enjoying the space we occupy with our work and our vision.

Don’t compare, celebrate

“Comparison is the Thief of Joy.” (Thomas Jefferson). Sure it’s cliche at this point but it truly bears repeating, again and again (and again.) It is just so painfully easy to see other work online, hold it up against our own and as The Jealous Curator, Danielle Krysa so succinctly put it; respond with “Damn, why didn’t I think of that.” Now that sentiment in itself is not so terrible (acknowledging another’s success doesn’t damper our own) but what IS dangerous, is when that response shuts our creative soul down. When we put someone else’s work on a pedestal and lower our own, we create perceived shortcomings that are utterly unfounded and so very damaging. Rather than comparing work, it can be helpful to remember to celebrate it instead. Noting why a piece speaks to us takes nothing away from our own work, and can be used to foster inspiration instead of discouragement.

Meditate on your Whys

Why do we make work? Guaranteed the answer is different than the creator behind the pin we’re currently ogling over. The motivation behind our making is often what empowers and distinguishes our work the most; that personal impetus which moves our hands to craft and create breathes a life all it’s own into our pieces. What questions are we personally addressing? Why do they implore us as makers to search and find answers? Consider these when that gorgeous image of someone else’s work starts to feel more important than your own.

Remember the Highlight Reel

Everyone posts it. We all tend to post our best work, our best photos, our successes. Few actually see the overdue the bills, the pieces rejected from shows, the piles of broken pottery or the blurry pics. It’s only natural to want show the best face to the world, but in doing so it breeds a constant high of the ‘best’ of life, impossible to recreate in the real world. Remember that the images which tend to captivate us are part of the “A” roll footage. 

Dwell on the good

A mindfulness of the ways this age (and it’s ever-expanding technologies) enhance our work and practice can be a boon in times when we feel that digitally-induced paralysis creeping in. Recalling the pan-continental communities (like this one!) that connect, support and inspire, or noting the endless troves of knowledge available at our fingertips, and all these neat new tools with which to bring our work into the hearts of clients and customers are just a few of the truly remarkable aspects of being a maker in this time. Focusing on these brings a bit of balance to the equation. 

It is important to remind each other (and ourselves!) as we journey about the enormity of the internet, that like all technologies - it is merely tool to be used to benefit our making and It does not determine the worth of our vision, nor the value of our work.

 

To see more of Ellen's work visit her website or her instagram.