How to Be Creative in a World Full of Sellouts

Sometimes when I travel, I find a takeaway, which becomes a souvenir for my brain. It can enlighten me and inspire a new way of thinking. This time, it included thoughts of creativity, originality, and its risks in a world where selling out is common. That invisible souvenir was even better than the sunglasses I bought!

Susie in Sunglasses

Lots of ideas floated around in my tiny cranium after my California trip. I had been inspired by what I had seen and experienced. LA is a place where being different is embraced from fashion trends to lifestyle and everything in between. I really love its creative people. Their energy is contagious!

With stops at The Broad, a contemporary art museum, the art district in Downtown LA, and a conversation with a clothing designer, the five days filled me with all kinds of inspiration.

A famous Warhol in The Broad.

IMG_7504

But what was it about art, design, and the freedom of expression and how Californians wear clothing that kept my brain bouncing?

I was trying to reconcile it with what I’ve been seeing online, lately.

While surrounded by duplication, there’s a risk in originality, right?

When perusing Pinterest, I’ve noticed many blog posts that are super similar. Some promise huge increases in stats. Others, on how to make money. The similarities don’t stop at content. Their blogs are almost carbon copies.

Were they really successful or just snake oil salesmen? The straight-up bait-and-switch bloggers won’t get anywhere. What I do know is there are millions of lifestyle bloggers writing the same posts. Many will quit in less than a year when they become frustrated with their results.

Lari Pittman’s mural behind Jeff Koons’ Jim Beam Train at The Broad.

Abstract art at The Broad

Why should I care?

Like most bloggers, one of my goals is to increase views. I had been tempted to blog a bunch of bullet-pointed travel posts since I have tons of photos. They would do very well on Pinterest, which is becoming a huge traffic generator for bloggers.

After writing one about California, I laughed. I set it aside for a few days and then reread it and laughed again. “No way,” I said out loud to no one. I couldn’t blog it. My brain told me so.

Brain: Don’t do it. Don’t follow the crowd just to blow up on Pinterest.

Me: Why not sellout a little bit for a few extra clicks? This post would totally blow up. (That’s good, BTW. It means my post would soar with lots of views.)

Brain: Because it’s not your brand. Continue being original and creative. Be you!

Me: But being original and me? That is so risky!

Brain: That’s what it’s all about. How do you think the super bloggers became super? By being like everyone else?

Me: …no…

Brain: Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad to want to increase views and followers, but do it in a way where you don’t sell out. You’ve spent almost seven years building an audience. You don’t want to turn them away for more hits. Your goal is to write books while continuing to blog.

Me: I totally get that. So can I write about my travels as long as I make them personal stories?

My Brain: Sure, and don’t forget to include all the dumb stuff you do. Readers love that.

Me: I have tons of material.

Brain: Yeah, I know.

It took almost a week, but I finally wrapped my mind around my souvenir.

If you’re a musician, artist, writer, blogger, or any other creative person who is producing content or a product, make sure to capture a part of you in what you create. Originality is key. Duplicating what’s already popular almost always ends up being a mere shadow of the original. If you’re interested in a popular idea, personalize it somehow. Experiment. Come at it in a new way. Turn it upside down. Put it on your head and wear it for a while. Play with it.

Readers want to be entertained, educated, or inspired. The hardest part is to get them to click. It’s our job to give them something new to think about.

Wondering what to create? Ask yourself these questions:

Who are you? What is your unique perspective or what are you trying to say that’s different from everyone else? Where are you from? What’s your story? What are you afraid of? Why? It’s probably holding you back from your full potential.

Fear is deadly to creativity. Be courageous and unlock your brain. You might be surprised by its crazy ideas!

This is my brain on inspiration:

An illustration of my brain on inspiration.

 

My brain is super crazy. Ask anyone. Especially when it’s filled with invisible souvenirs!

Do vacations inspire you? Are you creative? Do you go out of your way to avoid fear or do you face them head on?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

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101 thoughts on “How to Be Creative in a World Full of Sellouts

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    1. Me too! I’m so glad you had the time. 🙂

      I just added “writer” after clothing designer in the line about what inspired me during the week because you inspired me with your positive energy too!

      The time off really helped me with some book loose ends. It’s like my brain is in constant fluidity and the ideas need to settle to the bottom so I can make sense of them. Thank God for the Notes app on my phone. LOL!

      Thanks for reading, August!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Really solid advice. I think it’s difficult to not fall into the trap of fear of missing out and joining the bandwagon just for the sake of it. If something is topical and you have something to say on the subject that yes of course do so but don’t do it because you think you should – if that makes sense!

    Like

    1. That totally makes sense, Rachael!

      The cool part about being human right now, is we have so many tools with which to create and share our ideas and perspectives on a subject. It’s that same old thing, passion. It comes through (or the lack of it) in our writing every time!

      Thanks so much for weighing in!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have never in my life followed the pack. I write about history and nostalgia.. If they do not read it –they don’t read it. This writing I am doing is for future generations that might search for local history one day and it will be there. Museums are great but it is not hands on. What I do is what I love.. I love to write, I love local history– end of story:)

    Like

    1. It is a great mantra, John!
      We have to be enough while passionate about what we write. There are no guarantees no matter what we do, so we should at least enjoy what we are doing. It took me a while to wrap my mind around this, but now it makes sense. LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever understood “selling out” until I read this post…so it’s just being a copycat? BLEH!

    Writer’s magazines and the like always say “write to your audience”–except that almost seems like being a copier! Only when your audience is you (i.e. you don’t give a rat’s patoo about others) will you write like you want to and not worry about selling out.

    Like

    1. Selling out, in this case, means duplication, but it has lots of other meanings. In music, sometimes selling out is referred to when a big corporation uses a song for a commercial.

      Writing for the audience is different. I would pick a magazine that represents your interests, then write from the heart!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Some while ago I started posting my blog link on my Facebook page. What I have found is that it gets very little play and most of the people that react to it are also my blog followers so, I miss their comments on my blog. Unless you blog yourself, there seems to be a stigma to blogging that turns many people off. Too bad because they miss meeting people like you and me! I think I will not post my blog on FB again. I’ve decided I want the purity of interacting with people who write and appreciate blogs and not the “one night stands” that other media promotes. Let hits and stats be damned!

    As for fear, harumph! At this stage of my life, the only thing I fear is that someone will interfere with my afternoon nap!

    Like

    1. Facebook hates url postings since readers click away from their site. It opens in a new window, but that’s not enough for them. I tried leaving the link in the first comment which did a little better. They recently changed the algorithm so even my own mother never sees me. Ha! I plan to pay for a subscription form on Facebook and see how that goes…
      Happy napping!

      Like

      1. I find the same thing, Al. For the most part, all my Facebook friends are “real” life friends and they have little to no interest in my blog. But I write a column in our local paper and that gets a lot of interest from real people. It’s like there’s an invisible wall between the two worlds that nobody wants to scale.

        Good advice as always from your crazy brain, Susie.

        Like

  5. Awesome post!
    Being submerged in the blogging realm for years now I’ve seen these “sell out” posts/bloggers often. Sometimes I sit back and laugh at a time when they weren’t about the clicks and views. Ohhh how things have changed. Now they offer sound advice on how to gain followers or how to have a successful blog but they don’t follow their own advice.

    Like

  6. This is just what I needed to read! It’s encouraging to know that building up readership takes a long time; it doesn’t happen overnight. I’m trying to find my unique voice too. ahhhhhhhh!! Thank you for writing out the dialogue between you and your brain. I could totally relate.

    Like

    1. Thanks so much! It was fun to write.
      The thing about a blogging readership is there are so many who quit every year. It does take a lot of time. I love to write and share ideas, so the rest of it is frosting on the cake!

      Like

      1. That’s a great attitude!! Some posts resonate while others fall flat. I love to write too, so it shouldn’t be so much about the number of clicks – that’s my rational side talking…
        I do love this community of writers and learning from each other. Just do what love!! Tanks for the encouragement and insight!

        Like

    1. Thanks, Anneli!
      You would have wondered where I went if I started writing for the masses. It wasn’t my style at all. I have 63 drafts. Most are posts like that. Now I recognize that they don’t have a common story thread so I don’t blog them. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love your brain on inspiration. As long as you’re being you, there’s no one that can copy it. Funny you should ask about whether we avoid fear or face it head on. These days, I prefer to face it head on, but I do so with a wonderful therapist. I was seeing her specifically for her style of hypnotherapy, where she walked me through her process, creating a state where my body was completely relaxed and my mind was clear and focused, and I looked into all sorts of uncomfortable emotions, including fear. During the process, I was able to follow emotional threads that took me to fear, and beyond the fear to see what was causing it. Once there, it was easily resolved and absolutely dissolved. It’s been amazing to delve into the subconscious mind.

    What fun sunglasses!

    Like

    1. Thanks so much, Susan!
      Hypnotherapy sounds like a miracle! I tried hypnosis this fall at a conference. He used a suggestion that would help me focus when writing and give me confidence when pitching. It totally worked! I would love to go back. Fear is what keeps us from reaching our true potential!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Just when I decide not to bother about follows or likes another post from wordpress or another blogger comes along telling me how to increase. There is so much pressure to be ‘successful’. It’s hard to ignore. And bloggers can be so cold-hearted and ruthless about getting you to like their own posts! I read somewhere you need 500 likes per post before you can even consider making any money from it. Didn’t realise I had so much to say on the subject but I’m really a bit annoyed at some of the desperate behaviour of fellow bloggers to get their stats up.

    Like

    1. I’m glad you came to weigh in, Ateafan! I’ve never felt pressured. I have observed similarities and could have easily sucked into the vortex of the kind of posts that go viral. I would rather have solid followers than millions of hits from people who will never come back. Keep doing what you’re doing and enjoy the ride!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent post and great advice! The quest to be an Internet celebrity with viral content pushes so many people to copy ideas and content. I’ve seen so many “me too” posts and ideas, without an original spin or additional thought on them. Some gain traction, others crash and burn. Better to do your own thing, bring your own perspective to the table, even if that means you’ll never be an Internet celebrity!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right on!!!
      Thanks for weighing in, Modern Gypsy! I worried that I might be alone in this way of thinking. Everyone is looking for that magical information or trick that shoots them into the stratosphere. Truth is, there’s a lot of luck and risk involved. The Bloggess is one of the top bloggers because she shares stories about mental illness. She connects with a huge audience that can relate on some level. I read recently that we have to sacrifice in order to gain. She definitely gave up her privacy and gained a supportive and loving community, not to mention a few NYT bestsellers and fame.
      Thanks so much!!

      Like

  10. I would love to use my creative brain more in my 40 hour work world (on the edge of burn out). I think fear can be a motivator in certain situations. The one aspect of fear I fear is if there is conflict and confrontation – I need to run from that. This adventurer is so ready for a vacay. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

    Like

    1. And you live in the right place for one. Renee!
      I avoid “in your face” confrontation too. We seem to be surrounded by angry people these days.

      I hope you get a break soon!
      Nice to “see” you! 🙂

      Like

  11. It’s a bit of a dilemma because with a blog it’s not free creativity: it’s a brand too. So a shift which gets hits might have the potential to be hugely creative (visually) but if you’re a writer, it won’t be the right fit for you – or maybe there’s a photographer in there waiting to burst out.

    Those weird clone ‘get hits’ blogs remind me of pyramid schemes, they infect so many parenting blogs (or apparently parenting – I’ve never met a pre schooler worried about SEO though and some of the blogs are mostly clone and no kid). They give me the creeps.

    Like

    1. I think we’re talking about two different things. I don’t see the point in writing or blogging if it’s not creative in some way especially if a blogger is a professional affiliate. The purpose is to offer something we haven’t already seen or read.

      A brand in a writer or blogger’s case is an image. Everything we post shapes our brand. That goes for social media too. Our brand is the overall impression by others.

      The Bloggess is the most popular blogger in the world. Her brand is her open and irreverent humor while dealing with mental health issues and life in general. She is as creative as you get!

      Because I’m a novelist, I see value in name recognition, so going viral with a post on Pinterest would be FANTASTIC! But I won’t do it if it means chucking my brand and losing my regular readers.

      Thanks for chiming in with your point of view! This gave me a lot to think about! 🙂

      Like

      1. I was talking about being a brand in those terms. ☺ I know a number of successful bloggers and writers who have evolved or added to their genre, and others who work rigidly but creatively within their set brand parameters.

        Like

  12. Travel is like getting your brain into the washer and dryer – comes out all fresh
    When I first started blogging, a well established veteran blogger said to be true to your self and won voice, and never post just to push traffic – post quality. It’s always an inner discussion with yourself.
    A vital goal in product promotion is always “give them something good, so they’ll want to come back.”

    Like

    1. You nailed it, Phil!
      There’s a lot to be said about shaping and sticking with our own brand. When I read your blog, I expect lots of puns and a sense of humor. If you started writing very serious, politically-charged posts, your regular readers might scratch their heads.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I think you should totally go for that potentially viral Pinterest post. If it’s not fitting 100% with your brand, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not selling out, in my opinion. Sometimes you have to experiment with the brand and going outside the brand – especially if your brand is creativity, you’d have to push some boundaries, and that would include the boundaries of the brand.

    Like

    1. I like your idea a lot, X. I have a couple of pins that are doing well. This particular post had no point. It was as if I’d been kidnaped by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Ha! I could never figure out why I’d hold posts and writing this post helped me figure that out. I have to tell a story somehow. It has to be personalized or it doesn’t sit right with me.

      Like

  14. I would buy your doodle in a heartbeat!

    Our world has changed from being recognized for being different to being famous for being a better version of the last person that was just like you. We are surrounded by cookie cutter everything, people, clothes, music; it’s so dull. I’m drawn to the different, which is why when I go to NY I am immediately energized. It takes me days to come down.
    Stay on your course of being you.

    Like

    1. Thanks so much! I totally agree.
      I worried I would poke the sleeping bear, but so far. so good! There are plenty of those “Make tons of money!” posts and I’m sharing this on Pinterest. *gulp* Ha!

      Like

  15. I love your brain on inspiration. Very cool. I write about creativity and trying new things. They aren’t topics that will go viral on Pinterest, but it’s what I like. Sometimes I have a travel piece, sometimes there is even a blogging post. But it’s all about me and my unique experience. What else could it be?

    Like

  16. Not that I’m qualified to say much being a total newbie, but I totally think you are doing the right thing. Most of those bullet posts instantly bore me, I scroll past loads without even giving them a chance, having said that I do have an idea for a satirical based post on this theme, consider yourself well in on the joke when I get round to writing it.

    PS I tried linking to you in a post that I wrote but didn’t manage it. So, if you are board at any stage, my “Writer’s Block” poem post was very much inspired by one of your posts.

    Keep the faith 😉

    Like

    1. Thanks so much, Losing the plot!
      All you have to do with linkage is highlight the words on your post, click the chain in the edit bar and a box will appear. Paste the link at the top! If you’re not a WP blogger, sometimes all you have to do is highlight the text and paste the link. Google it if this doesn’t make sense. 🙂 Thanks again!

      I love satire! Go for it!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Love your thoughts on this Susie. O totally agree on the not selling out and copying. What works for me is being me totally and honestly on my blog and I don’t plan to change that either!

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  18. Great post! Yeah, how many blogs can there be about blogging? I’d say .05% of my 600+ posts are about blogging. Why? Because that’s not who I am. I’m a humor blogger and write about anything and everything that I found. Now if there is a “how to blog” moment that inspires a blog of mine, fine, I’ll go for it. But I’m not going to feed off of newbie bloggers, claiming I know the secret formula to becoming the next Mann or Lawson. I don’t know that formula and never will. Yeah, I would say there are a ton of sell outs. I think I went the reverse of selling out when less than a year I switched over to self-hosting. To say the growth is much slower is an understatement. But I know I just have to keep chuggin’ along and not give up. I’m here to win the war, not the battle.

    Like

  19. Firstly great questions to ask yourself. I’ll keep those in mind. It’s so easy to think you should go with the flow, sometimes I think wow they have so many followers and likes, how? Why? Personally I enjoy following a blog where I get to know a person. I don’t just want tips or recommendations that I can find on many other blogs. Lists don’t really hold my attention unless they are specific or personal. I like a bit of humour, I like to get involved with a blog. Although I have to confess I’ve considered doing some of these blog posts myself at times to see if the stats rise, but I have to keep true to myself and my readers! Great post, made me think!

    Like

  20. I love this post, Susie – very original! 🙂 It’s funny this popped up today because I was just thinking about how many posts I read that are nearly identical to another I had read. In fact, a friend suggested I take this free 5-day course on how to make money blogging (which has never been my purpose for having one, but I was curious). Anyway, I made it through, but barely. Everything that was included were things I have already read elsewhere. I learning NOTHING new. Pretty amazing for a 5-day course. Anyway, great post. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing – writing about the things I’m passionate about. I may never strike the big bucks, but I’ll keep enjoying myself.

    Oh, and nature, animals, and history are what inspire me.

    Like

    1. That is so funny! I used to click on posts about increasing blog views and found the same thing. They were all about sharing on social media. Got it the first time! Ha!
      I’m glad to hear you’re not getting caught up in the rat race!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I liked the questions you listed to ask yourself about your blog. I know who I am, although I do believe I am evolving daily. I think this is something that is noticeable in my blog. Vacations to inspire me, I need to take more vacations. I could use the added inspiration 🙂

    Like

    1. I used to search for activities to write about!! I could go skiing or XC skiing but it’s 10 degrees outside. Not sure I’ll have a big adventure today. Ha!

      Evolution is a big part of blogging especially in the beginning. It’s all about finding your voice. Have fun with it!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I’ve been trying for years to “make it” as a creative type, but I’ve had to accept that it’s just not in the cards for me.
    Nevertheless, I’m still plugging away, and while my enthusiasm for blogging/writing has diminished significantly, I’m still here.

    Like

    1. Don’t give up, Hook! I think you’re very creative!

      I don’t know how anyone does this with a full-time job. There are definitely highs and lows in blogging. We are about to go into spring break season so a lot of readers will be on the beach!

      Like

  23. Vacations do inspire me. Sadly I haven’t had many in the last 10 years. There is just something about being in a different space in a different state of mind (not everyday kind of state). The air is different, the sky is different, the people are different, even the pavement is different. Sometimes it is hard to carry it home and continue to use it. Especially as well as you use your “souvenirs”.

    Like

    1. There is something so special about those souvenirs. This time, it took a while to put them into words! I do love vacations and am very grateful for the breaks. I hope you get one soon! Lots of places to visit in the US alone!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m embarrassed to say I have probably visited a lot more places in the US than I have my own country. I do fall prey to the call of sunshine in the warmer states when Canada is in a deep freeze but Canada is one of the most beautiful countries and I should spend more time exploring the parts of it I haven’t seen.

        Like

    1. Thanks so much, Marje! I hope you go on one soon! They are great for the creative imagination!
      I’m trying to choose a destination for my birthday in April! I can’t decide!!! I have too many choices syndrome… Ha!

      Like

  24. I remember, as a new blogger, reading one of your posts. You said the posts you spend the most time on aren’t always your most “viewed.” Glennon Doyle Melton (a million plus followers) talks about how she’s asked by bloggers how to increase their views. What you and she both advise is wise: Be yourself. Tell your truth. Do it with integrity and quality. Don’t babysit it.
    I love how simple it all is. And when that beautiful, handcrafted post doesn’t find it’s ten thousand views don’t assume it’s bad. Just let it be what it is. Maybe time hasn’t ripened to give it the audience it will eventually have. How many artists have found their work re-discovered years after it first made it’s debut? These are all excellent things I try and remind myself of.
    And I do truly love the conversations you have in your brain.

    Like

    1. Thanks, Angela and for weighing in!

      I’ve already spent a lot of time on my next post since it’s so personal. I wish I could knock them out in a short time but sometimes the story-telling is complicated. It ends up being therapeutic!
      I do love the fact that evergreen content can go viral later. My happy birthday post from 2011 got 50,000 views on Reddit in 2014! You never know.
      My brain has conversations like that all the time. Ha! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I am so glad I got to meet you in person. I think you have created a fab blogging brand.

    After stepping away from my blog for a bit in terms of creating new content I have had chance to look around blogging land and I do see the same content being churned out. I have also seen a lot of posts with no depth; big title, a nice image but not much to go with it. I applaud those bloggers who are sticking to their own brand values and working hard to be original. I think those who work at their posts day in day out should be praised.

    Great post.

    Like

    1. Thanks so much, Lucy! It’s always great to “see” you. I’m so glad we met!

      I think burnout is a real thing. If I don’t have anything to blog, I wait until I do! It might take up to two weeks especially if I’m traveling.

      I joined Tailwind Tribes for Pinterest and boy is it hard to repin! Most have a rule to pin 1:1 so I’m obligated. Too many bloggers are on the same bandwagon all selling the same thing. They don’t realize they’re all competing with each other. I don’t need to read thirty duplicates!

      Like

  26. This post ties into why I blog. I do it to express my thoughts, opinions and to offer up a little everyday wisdom. The people that connect with it are the people I want because they are authentically interested. If that is only one person, I’m okay with that. I resonated with someone on a deeper level. The same thoughts about creativity and originality can be said for writing with SEO rankings in mind. To place specific words and phrases in a post so that it ranks higher and gets more views, in my opinion is not being original but rather looking to be popular. This post resonated with me on that deeper level. Thanks

    Like

    1. I totally agree, Diana! Writing for SEO trends is a mistake!
      But writing a post and paying attention to the wording of the first paragraph can help readers find it. In general, SEO is tough for bloggers unless they blog totally informative posts without the jibber jabber. I’m not that blogger. Gabbing is my thing. Ha!

      Thanks so much for reading and weighing in!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Such a relatable theme. Probably most bloggers struggle to walk the line between writing about what we care about and trying to increase exposure. Nice to read support for non-fad followers. As the internet has progressed, it’s become more and more clear we need honest, interesting, informative writing much more than escapist click-bait. Nothing wrong with click-bait! But if it’s not your passion, there are plenty of empty content generators to fill any void.

    Like

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