Formula Vs. Real Creativity: Why Formula Sucks

I don’t know about you, but I’ve started to grow tired of the formulaic blog post. You know, the ones with a catchy title, a hook, numbered points, and a call to action. Sure, formula works, otherwise people would quit using it. Still, the formulaic blog post seems to work contrary to real creativity.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen, and hopefully written, a few creative blog posts using formula. But deep down, I know that formula restricts me from breaking new ground, from developing a unique writing voice.

Formula Creates Boundaries, It’s A Trap

As a creative individual, I’ve always struggled with using formula. Of course, one must learn the basics of writing and organization, but too much of the same thing makes Jack a dull boy.

Take songwriting as an example. Honestly, how often do you hear a new, truly great, pop song? I’d argue that great pop songs are becoming more and more rare. Why?

Today’s songs are all written in the same formats and styles. They use the same beats and chord progressions. They are recorded in the same handful of studios using the same techniques. It’s only when someone goes slightly outside the norm that we wind up with a great song. The average pop song brainwashes you into liking crap.

Blogging has fallen into a similar trap. Bloggers who have had some financial success have set the guidelines for what makes a good blog post. The problem is that those guidelines are very limiting. The formula is getting stale. You’ve read one blog post, you’ve read most blog posts. Furthermore, when the goal is only to make a profit, creativity can’t help but suffer.

Most bloggers ask questions and then answer them for you. They’re supposed to be helpful. But here’s the problem: We kill creativity when we offer answers instead of promoting self-governed problem solving.

Money Demotivates Creativity!

Why do writers, musicians, and artists use formula? First, formula helps us organize our work. It also helps others make sense of what we do. But more often, we turn to formula to attempt to make money. It’s what worked for that other guy who made bank, so maybe it’ll work for me. Guess what? When you think and write in that way, you throw your originality and creativity out the window.

Daniel Pink, a successful blogger and writer makes this point in the following video. The conclusion is interesting.

Stop Chasing the Dollar and Get More Creative

What is your motivation for writing? Is your final goal to make money? If it is, you’re killing your creativity. Are you following the crowd in hopes to profit? If you are, you’re not learning to master your art.

Mastery comes from exploration. Sure, practice is important, but if you only practice within the refined boundaries of formula, you’re simply working at the mechanical level and not the cognitive level. Great entrepreneurs don’t create to make money. They create in order to explore the boundaries of their own abilities. The same goes for writers. architects, designers, and musicians.

How Poetry Fits into the Equation

As a writer, I’ve discovered that poetry is the most creative form of the written word. Why? Because poetry, especially free-verse, has no rules, no formula. It allows the writer to break outside of more traditional boundaries in writing.

If you want to become more creative in whatever you do, you must step outside of the box. If you’re a blogger or a writer, I encourage you to try writing some poetry or prose instead of only writing formulaic blog posts and ebooks. If you’re a musician, try playing in another style or playing a different instrument. If you’re an artist, do something abstract.

If you want to make the world a better place, step away from formula and explore new styles, make new models. I’ll be working toward these goals myself.

As we move toward the new year, I’m rethinking how I blog at danerickson.net. I’ll be moving away from the formulaic blog post. Rather than posting a standard blog post a couple of times a week, I’ll be experimenting with different forms of creative writing. Rather than skimming the surface and offering solutions, I’ll be writing, longer, more thoughtful posts about once a month. But I also might write a short poem on any given day.

You Can’t Encourage Creativity Using a Formula

My goal at The Creative Side is to encourage others to get more creative. I can write posts like, 10 Ways To Get More Creative Today all day long. But what am I preaching? I’m screaming the same things everyone else is in those kinds of blog posts. They’re a dime a dozen.

Tons of preaching about creativity does not equal quality practice. My goal is to teach creativity through the practice of creativity. This requires more thought, more exploration, more willingness to step outside of the formula. I hope you’ll continue to follow me on this creative journey.

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