Style and creativity: how to expand yours.

We had an interesting string about developing one’s editorial style this week in The Power Edit on FB – which, if you’re interested in improving your editorial and communication craft, is a group you should join.

enLIGHTened. Get it?  Hey-ohh.

One group member – whose permission was obtained for referencing him here – wrote that he just wrapped editing on a reality show and asked for feedback from his producers. (That right there is a very enlightened thing that more people should do, by the way.)

They told him that while he did a good job, he should work to develop his own editorial style. Hence the question: how do I develop my own style? It’s a pretty vague thing, completely dependent on where and who you are and what you want.

Some experienced editors offered some very wise advice. And it got me thinking about style and creativity in general.

Jeff at piano young crop
Young Jeff says: what is this SOUL ridiculousness? I have the notes on the page, what else might anyone need?  (I actually talked like that. When I was 10. Didn’t make too many friends on the playground at recess.)

I remember the time when I was a kid in elementary school, and I was playing one of the pianos at my church.  One of the older ladies who played piano informed me that I needed to learn to “play from your SOUL.” I thought that was pretty dumb.  Plus I didn’t really like the way she played piano anyway, so what did she know?

Well… a decade and change of mental and emotional growth later, I eventually realized she was right.

My life as an assistant editor involved these. Lots and lots of these.
My life as an assistant editor involved these. Lots and lots of these.

Not too many years after that, I was out in Los Angeles beginning my first job in post-production. As an assistant online editor, I saw every piece that was edited for the show, and I started predicting who had edited them based on the style of the edit. Some I could pick apart and recognize sloppy elements, others I just shook my head at how effortlessly the piece flowed. I had no idea how to accomplish what I saw, but I just kept watching, talking with the editors, going from show to show, and actually adding bits of all that observation into my own cuts.

What was the connection between playing piano “with my SOUL” and developing my editorial style?

One word: influences. On top of my classical piano studies, I started listening to jazz, blues, and Top 40 music. My current style of piano playing is a mix of all of that. Editorially, I started paying attention to scenework, visual style, and storyline development in TV shows that I watched on TV or helped edit, and in movies I saw in the theater.

For better or worse, the things you put in your mind shape what comes out of it. As my friend Micah Yost writes in his newly released e-book “Rhythm: How to Make Great Things Happen”:

rhythm-yost-cover“You will never see a change in your results until you shake up your influences.”

Curation of influences is only one element of an entire equation that Micah has detailed in his book, which is a step-by-step guide on how anyone can achieve creative outcomes in their field, even if they don’t think they’re “a creative.”

Think you or your project are too stiff or structured?

“Structure and creativity have the same parentage. It is structure that enables creativity.”

HECK. YES. Also:

“You can’t get creative from simply reading about somebody else’s ideas. You have to develop a plan that works for you – a plan you are convinced by evidence will produce results.”

I couldn’t agree more. Micah’s book offers a specific yet flexible plan to do exactly that, without taking 400 pages to say it. It’s not a pie-in-the-sky treatise on what other people think, it’s a concrete, easily applied set of steps for YOU to achieve the creative and stylistic results YOU want.

It’s available now on Kindle, brand new as of this writing. You should pick up a copy.

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