It’s OK to Change Your Creative Direction

creative direction

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I am fascinated by this bar chart gif, which shows the 10 most populated cities in the world, from the year 1500 to present:

(If this doesn’t load as a gif for you, an original is available here on Twitter)

I’ve watched it at least a couple dozen times.

While there are many arguments to be made for outside circumstances like poverty and class and societal norms, the animation is also a visual representation of the movement of people to the empires dictating culture and domination.

From China starting out the 1500s (and we in the West are always taught about how brilliant we were with our Renaissance years) to the brief resurgence of the Ottoman Empire, to the rise of the United Kingdom and then the United States, coming into modern times with the resumption of power in Japan and the climb in recent years for India, there’s no doubt that we as people are a fickle species.

Ready to wander the world and often relocate to the cities and countries where exciting things are happening and the opportunities seem to be endless.

Years ago, I read an essay by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (yes, the actor) explaining why the U.S. would have a hold on leadership and power because of Hollywood. As long as Hollywood continued putting out movies and television shows about the lure of U.S. life and dreams, then people around the world would continue to believe that is how it really is.

As an American who has traveled a fair bit, I’m always amazed at how people don’t seem to understand how utterly unrealistic the ‘90s show Friends was. We all knew in the U.S. that no one could afford the lifestyle those six schlubs were swinging in NYC on their salaries; but to many others, if they could just get here, then they too could live in massive, two-bedroom rent-controlled apartments just outside of Greenwich Village in Manhattan for under $1000 per month.  

Even 20 years ago, this is laughable at best.

The point is, whoever is dominating the culture of the moment has a large audience’s attention.

But here’s the thing.

They aren’t just copying someone else.

No one moves from Beijing to London to New Delhi thinking that things are going to be the same. In each location, you’ll see new landmarks and try new food, and meet new people and wear new outfits, and take in different shows and … well, you get the point.

The same goes for your writing.

See, when we really start figuring out what we want to say and how we want to say it, we can cling too tightly.

We say silly things like “Oh, that’s not my brand” or “I’m not interested in that type of content” or various other pass-offs that don’t seem all that silly … at the time.

You don’t want to become shiny-object obsessed, changing yourself with every new whim and fancy.

But you do want to be open to new experiences and mediums and thoughts.

In barely more than 500 years, the world has shifted focus and world power at least seven to 10 times.What changes are happening in your industry or field or mind that you aren’t paying attention to (in other words, you are missing out on) because you don’t want to leave your own backyard?