Pinterest: Just Say No

Okay, the title of this post might be a little harsh. I love Pinterest for recipes, wish lists, and looking at colors. But once I got serious about creating my own work, I’ve come to realize that there’s such a thing as too much “inspiration.”

After spending a few months falling down the Pinterest rabbit hole while supposedly gathering inspiration for my own projects last winter, I realized that I needed to just stop. Why? Because I knew that in order to be successful, I would need to create something that didn’t feel derivative of any other stationery line out there right now, and I didn’t want to get other people’s designs stuck in my head. (Not to mention the fact that it’s a GIGANTIC time-suck!)

As an artist, it’s a double-edged sword to have images of literally everything that’s ever been made, ever, at your fingertips. It’s amazing and inspiring and fantastic on one hand, but on the other, if you’re looking at other people’s work all day, the things you create will inevitably be influenced by that work, even if that’s not your intention. Sometimes that’s okay, but as a total unknown trying to break into a crowded stationery market, it was critical that my work looked and felt fresh.

This is what happens when you search “chalkboard lettering” on Pinterest. 

So what can you do to get inspired when you feel stuck? Look at things outside of your field of work. Recently, for me, some of those things have been South African painted signs, rock formations, and Japanese fashion — but they change all the time. Also, I truly believe that the best way to come up with ideas is to just sit down and do it, uninterrupted.

I know it’s not easy to stay away from the siren call of the internet when you’re trying to create something new. It takes a lot of faith in yourself and your own vision, and requires you to trust your own instincts in a way that can sometimes feel really uncomfortable. But when we practice listening to ourselves, that’s where the best work comes from.

For more of my thoughts on coming up with ideas, check out this post.

24 thoughts on “Pinterest: Just Say No

  1. Pinterest is essentially about imitation and very little about actual inspiration. It’s not only an issue for creatives wanting to protect their work but potentially stifling for the creative process itself. Great piece.

    • YES! “Pinterest is essentially about imitation and very little about actual inspiration.” Very well-put. And you’re right – I didn’t even touch on the fact that it also makes it way too easy for unscrupulous companies to discover and rip off artists, among other things. Thank you!

  2. Definitely needed this slap in the face, thank you! I love Pinterest for too many reasons, but as an illustrator it definitely gets in my head too much and often times I feel creatively frustrated because I’ve over-indulged on too much inspiration and can’t decide what to do with it. Unplugging and putting trust back into my own imagination is definitely on my to-do list!

  3. Wow! So well said – sometimes after a few hours “just looking for inspiration” on Pinterest I am a crabby, intimidated, insecure mess. How right you are – the best inspiration comes from the world around us and often manifests itself in quiet moments with ourselves.

    • Thank you! I think Pinterest is the most insidious of the social networks in terms of its sneaky tendency to breed insecurity and comparison, because we think we’re looking at innocuous “inspiration” vs. photos of others’ lives.

  4. AMEN! This is the same reason that I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders when Google Reader died. It was like I had been freed from all these blogs I just read under the misguided premise of “staying current”.

    • Totally!!! I so hear you. “Current” for what? I asked myself that last year when it came time for me to make a choice, time-wise — do I keep spending my time reading other people’s lifestyle and design blogs, or do I spend that time making my OWN lifestyle and design instead? I’ve been much happier personally since choosing the latter.

  5. Amen!
    Grab a photography book of something completely unrelated or go for a walk or do anything but Pinterest dive into the very industry you’re in to glean off of others. I find it does the opposite of inspire – it makes me feel overwhelmed and quite frankly, like i’m not enough. I usually have to step away and out, so I can feel stronger in my own sense of style and mission.
    Thanks for sharing Em! Your blog posts are fantastic!

  6. (I mean, I agree that looking for inspiration within my own industry can make me feel overwhelmed and not good enough, not I agree that my blog posts are fantastic. Hahah.)

  7. I find all the time I spend on Pinterest looking for things is better spent just working. Creativity comes from work.

    I do like to use it to flag recipes I want to make.

  8. YES, yes yes yes to ALL of this and all of the comments! I haven’t been able to really dig into Pinterest and I think the biggest reason why is because I’m already overwhelmed just thinking about trying to get started with it. I have a hard enough time with Facebook comparing myself and getting sucked down various black holes of articles/information/pictures of cats (okay the pictures of cats part is totally fine…and welcomed, haha) but I get tight-chested whenever I spend too much time gathering ‘inspiration’. I start thinking about my own work and what it is or isn’t, what it has or doesn’t have, comparing other people’s achievements and bios and blogs and styles and …ooft. It makes for such a slump coupled with total information/image overload. I’m left feeling exhausted without even picking up a pencil, and then if I do pick up a pencil, I get like…pencil anxiety. For recipes or home decor ideas maybe, maaaybe Pinterest is okay (but even then….with a move on the horizon….okay yup tight-chest thinking about perfect living rooms, not gonna do it). ;)

    • I’m so sorry I missed your comment, Lesley! The internet can feel like such a giant hole of comparison, and it’s SO easy to get sucked into it. I’m with you! Who needs a perfect living room?

  9. Wow. This so spoke to me. Ironically I found your blog via Pinterest. Your art on the subject of not comparing ourselves to others online. Oh so much easier said then done. Thank you for your words of wisdom and your thoughts for finding authentic inspiration. Awesome! I’m also a huge sucker for great stationary so I’m officially on the lookout for your work. Happy (almost) weekend!

  10. You are GREAT at this “advice posts” :) I’ve read the other on how to come up with ideas and loved it…

    PLEASE KEEP DOING THEM! I am preparing to start my own business and LOVE to read your ideas… even though my work has nothing to do with yours (I’m a psychotherapist & opening a private practice).

    Thank you!! :)
    xx raquel

    • Raquel! I’m so sorry I missed this comment!!! Thank you so much– that is really awesome to hear; I so often find myself saying to myself and others that I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m making a conscious effort to start owning what I DO know. I’ll be writing here more often once holiday madness slows down. :)

  11. Emily! This is so spot on. I had a very similar experience—of both falling down the Pinterest rabbit hole and discovering the not-so-good feeling of “too much inspiration.” I also followed my creative sniffer into other forms of inspiration, both inside and out. Bravo for putting all this into words, wise ones, and sharing them. x

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