Creative Conundrums

Stephen Yagielowicz
Tired of having the same old look and feel to your projects? Facing creative hurdles that you're unable or unwilling to overcome? Maybe you just can't think clearly about what you need to do next. Perhaps you need a new way of looking at things...

Currently, I'm about an hour away from my publishing deadline, and have very little idea about what I want to talk about. This is a rarity for me, but today will be my third straight day of being pretty much bed-ridden, pumped full of antibiotics and fighting a 100+ degree fever caused by a serious ear infection. But as they say in the big leagues, "the show must go on..." – so bear with me on what will undoubtedly be a fever induced, medication blurred, and perhaps entirely nonsensical (but hopefully helpful) rant.

But what to talk about? Well, the truth be known, a few hundred words about the ice-filled bath I'm about to take wouldn't be very interesting, so I'm going to talk about something that many of us can relate to, and my current problem du jour: staring at a blank page and hoping it gets filled by magic...

I'm by no means alone in this. In her recent article Productivity: Profitable Laziness, Jo Hawke touched on the issue of "Webmaster burn out" and the writer's equivalent, "Writer's Block" – something that I can relate to as it's currently plaguing me.

I'd like to shift the context a little, however, and focus more on "the lack of creativity" aspect of many Webmaster's products that seem to be ever more commonplace. For myself, personally, it's easy enough for me to see: despite the fact that I've built hundreds of Websites since 1994, there's only perhaps a half-dozen graphical backgrounds that I've ever used, with two in particular (my favorite "textured white" and the ever popular "engraved blue") accounting for perhaps 80% of everything I've done.

I have my favorite collection of graphics, too: a certain "new" button, a half-dozen, different colored, small "balls," my favorite "blinking red arrow" and my metallic "home" icon. While I have thousands of images, graphics, buttons, and the like in my library, these aforementioned graphics are basically all that I have used, and continue to use. I also like to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and have my favorite settings, fonts, and parameters there too.

The end result is that many of my own sites look remarkably similar. While I can easily justify this by saying that the reason I consistently use these same techniques, colors, backgrounds, fonts, graphics, etc. is simply because "they work"– I do occasionally wonder if taking a more "creative" approach would not only be more mentally refreshing, but more profitable as well.

The reality is, however, that in all likelihood, I will continue to use the same approach on any new or updated projects. After all, I like "my style" – it's clean, readable, reasonably fast, and it works. It's also about the limit of my graphical talent; and any quantum leaps from here would require an investment in learning time that I simply cannot make right now. Besides, the overall effect is really quite suitable for the "real amateur" market in which I'm working. Perhaps I'm too conservative, but there you have it...

Is there an easy solution to this situation? Something that can knock me out of my comfort zone and get me to try some new approaches? Sure, many of my approaches and techniques were truly innovative when I first began using them, but today, many have become stale while others are showing their age, and being set in my ways, it's difficult for me to "try something new." Perhaps it's time to seek some outside help.

While I'm content to build my site the way I want it, I will soon begin flooding Cyberspace with new TGP / MGP galleries, and I am now quite open-minded about having some of them "professionally" designed by folks who not only know what they're doing, but who have very different "looks" and approaches than mine. I'll take it all one step at a time...

And this is probably the big lesson for dinosaurs like myself – "old school" Webmasters who learnt their trade by having to do "everything" themselves: Sometimes you just have to let go, and allow specialists to enhance your offerings.

Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, or expending energy on fighting creative blocks, it might just be better to walk away, and let others fill in the blanks for you. This goes against the grain of many "control freaks" (such as myself), but in our increasingly complex and very competitive industry, it might ultimately be the most logical – and rewarding – step.

If anything I've written hear strikes close to home, then perhaps its time you re-evaluate how you've been doing things, and perhaps time to find a little help of your own. ~ Stephen