The hazards of Pinterest
Benjamin Franklin was a guy who got shit done. He was an author, diplomat, publisher, scientist and inventor. He launched libraries, colleges and hospitals and was a founding father of the United States. We can thank him in part for the electricity that keeps our precious smartphones juiced and our Netflix ticking over. The man who said “Fail to plan, plan to fail” would have had a daily to do list a toilet roll long. But Franklin’s sentiment of ‘planning equals success’ definitely falls down when applied to certain roles in our modern day. If you are a civil engineer building a bridge or an aircraft mechanic fixing planes, please, you keep on planning out your work to the micro-millimetre. Please. But for those in the creative industry, over-planning can get in the way of actually making something magic happen.
There is a fine line between planning and procrastinating, a tenuous division that I jitterbug on every day. As a stylist, I get to dream up images, composing objects, colours and textures in front of a camera. I love being involved in the creation of images but I am addicted to drinking in beautiful pictures created by others. I am quietly smug in knowing I have landed myself a career where spending time on digital mood board and image-sharing sites like Pinterest is par for course. My Pinterest life is highly curated, filled with rooms covered in interesting art, healthy indoor greenery and hard to find vintage furniture. My peach of a butt fills jeans sensationally and my irresistible mop of hair is always perfectly tousled. Flattering light and an art director follow me wherever I go; everything I cook is worthy of a shoot and even washing the dishing is a photo opportunity. I pin therefore I am. Right? I was once told I was ‘very good at Pinterest’ and for the rest of the day (ok - year), I was on top of the world.
When I teach styling at design schools, I bang on about collecting reference images and creating mood-boards as the first step in the creative process to help give focus to the end goal. I send eager students off to spend time on Pinterest, for them to trudge back into class days later, with eyes glazed over, shoulders stooped and hands cramped into claws. And without asking, I know why. They got lost down a P. Hole. It all starts productively enough, pinning images of work they love, keen to hunt down idea-sparking visuals. After swimming in the depths of the image database for hours, the amount of visual stimulation blasted through the student’s ocular cavities, filtering down deep into the occipital lobe, has left their pupils brimming and their mind unfocused. They are drowning in the possibilities, in the concepts, in the potential, having lost sight of what it is they actually want to achieve.
Reaching inspiration saturation point has a negative effect on our capacity to actually create something. It’s a form of decision paralysis, where too much information will freeze the ability to move onto the next step. Just as Franklin couldn’t have predicted the hot mess that lay ahead for his country, he obviously was not conscient of Pinterest and it’s capacity to so quickly derail purposeful planning into hardcore procrastination.
Collecting visuals is an important part of the creative process but you need to give your brain a chance to synthesise the inputs. The trick is to use Pinterest in moderation and set some boundaries. If you are on a specific image finding task, give yourself a time limit. If I have been wandering around on Pinterest for over thirty minutes, I kick myself out, close the laptop and walk away. I know that any image searching after this amount of time is my way of actually putting off thinking about what I have collected so far and developing my own unique ideas.
So while Electric Benny had good intentions in saying that planning is vital to success, I would say over-planning kills a certain kind of spontaneity required to create something truly special and individual. I prefer to live by the maxim "Sometimes plan, sometimes wing it", which I found late one night, you guessed it, on Pinterest.