repetition

the grind

Gamers understand grinding as much as anyone (and no, I’m not talking about dirty Jr. High dance moves here). In a game, grinding means performing a repetitive, monotonous action over a long period of time in order to acquire something of perceived value.

Grinding has been in games for a while now and it seems to have only increased over the years. Many online RPGs are built off this concept: maybe you have to fight a bunch of low-ranked enemies just to level up and then fight a bunch of slightly harder enemies. Perhaps you've got to slowly, painstakingly collect gold or other materials so you can eventually obtain some special item which helps you be better at collecting gold and such. Or, as with many mobile games, you simply log in every half hour so you can repeatedly tap a button, which will unlock new buttons for you to tap repeatedly. That sort of thing.

But you know what? Grinding is not fun. Ever.

So why do we do it? Games, after all, are supposed to be for our enjoyment, right? From a game designer standpoint, it’s a cheap way to keep people playing your game longer. From the player’s standpoint, they believe whatever reward they get is worth the effort. But, from my perspective, it hardly is. Most of the time all you’re doing is grinding in order to do more grinding.

Sometimes life can feel this way. After all, we call work the daily grind (especially if you’re in a coffee shop). For some folks, they get up, go to work, and come home, with little change in their daily routine. Often the work itself is quite repetitive. I’m not dogging on a consistent and reliable job, but when the majority of your life is spent in repetitive monotony, it may be time to rethink where you’re heading.

Creativity, on the other hand, is all about embracing change; it’s like diving headlong into a big rushing river and not knowing where you’ll be swept away. It’s scary, challenging and fun—nothing like the grind. 

But even creatives can fall into a grind. And you know what, sometimes it’s ok, for a time. Even if you enjoy the outcome, some parts of being creative just aren’t very fun. Sometimes you have to stick that nose to the grindstone (sure sounds painful) and get a hard job done. Just make sure you have an exit plan, a reason for the grind that makes the trouble worth the effort. 

Once the grind is over, it should allow you to do something fun and exciting once more. Even better, find a way to avoid the grind altogether: develop a process so the further along you are on your creative journey, the less grinding is necessary. If your life seems like nothing but a grind, throw in an element of the unexpected, do something new and different, even if it's small and simple. 

Whatever you do, avoid an endless grind-cycle at all costs. Because if all you do is grind, eventually you’ll be ground away to nothing. That would be a stone-cold shame.

 

Creatively yours,

A. P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, has creativity ever felt like a grind to you, what have you done to change it up? Let us know in the comments below.

on repeat

When I was younger, my little sister discovered an inhumane form of torture. Two actually. They were both albums on CD. One was the first Aqua album, featuring the "Barbie Girl" song. The other was the first Spice Girls album, featuring, well, I'm sure you've heard them at some point. She listened to them both unceasingly. I nearly went insane, or maybe I did and I just don’t know it yet …
Red hen, pink hen, 49 out!
Huh, who said that? 

Alright, so repetitive things tend to drive me a little batty. Let me say that again. No, wait, I won’t: to do so would only add further madness.

I usually don’t like hearing the same songs over and over or watching the same movie without a long break in between each viewing. There are exceptions, but very few.

It strikes me that repetition and creativity are an odd couple, but they are a couple. Notes repeat to make great music, patterns couldn’t exist without repetition. On the flip side, repetition dulls creativity. The more something is repeated, the less creative it becomes. Things fresh and creative today become old and stale tomorrow (like that bread I left out, but hey, it’s how French toast got invented and man is that stuff delicious). To repeat something is to make it normal, to lessen its creative appeal (or did I say that already?)

I recall the chant of the Hipster, “I liked it first, before it was cool.” Truly they seek the cutting edge of creativity in all aspects (pulls tongue out of cheek).

So yeah, creativity requires a fresh approach but it also has strong roots in repetition. What’s more, our own creative development is dependent on repeated attempts (and failures) before we can arrive at some measure of success. Truth be told (and I do try to tell it), repetition is one of the main ingredients for creative momentum.

Momentum comes from simple, repeated, continual effort over regular intervals of time.

But where is the balance between a life of endless repetition and one of newness? That’s a toughie. Perhaps it comes when we find the things which matter most, which are worth repeating. Some things take on a newness of their own the more familiar we become with them. We should also work on discovering new ways to do the same things.

The sun comes up and goes down every day (for most of us, sorry Alaska) but I still find it beautiful and moving each time.

I'll admit, not all repetition is bad; in fact, repetition can add meaning to a thing, put emotional cement around it. My first paid job was doing janitorial work and landscaping for an elementary school district over the summer. My best friend's dad (who landed us the gig) would drive the three of us to work every day in his pickup truck, bouncing over beat-up dirt roads while playing Garth Brook's "Shameless". That song was his morning ritual and, for reasons far beyond me, it held untold significance to him. Maybe we all need a little bit of shameless repetition, just to keep ourselves centered.

So find that favorite song you’ll never grow tired of, pump up the jam and put a new spin on your old ways. Really though, who thought Scary Spice was a good stage name? Honestly.

 

Creatively yours,
A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, do you enjoy repetition or find it monotonous? Let us know in the comments below.