This Is NOT An Angry Old Man

Sometimes, looking closer at something makes you see it LESS properly. This optical illusions shows you why. How can we stay focused on what's REALLY important?

 

Take a look at this angry old man:

Optical Illusion Hybrid Image

What can we learn from this about the creative process?

Now take a few steps back…What do you see now? (Don’t see it? Try squinting your eyes… There it is :) )

This is a fun optical illusion called Hybrid Images. It’s created when the details tell one story, but the overall tonal patterns tell another. When you see it up close, your brain uses the details to interpret the image; when you see if from a few steps away, the details become a blur and the brain uses the tonal patterns instead.

So – what the heck does this have to do with the creative process?

The forest and the trees

Writers spend hours polishing sentences, musicians consider every note, animators work on every frame and tweak motion arcs. If you’re ambitious about quality, you probably spend more than 80% of your MAKE time tinkering with details. Therefore, you generally are very attentive to the story told by the details.

Your audience, however, is not experiencing your work at that same resolution. They read stories, not sentences; listen to music, not notes; they watch films, not frames. They look at it from a few meters away, metaphorically speaking. So YOU might think you’re showing them an angry old man, but THEY may be seeing a beautiful young girl. See how that works?

That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to take frequent small break in which you detach yourself from the lure of details, consider the big picture and try to judge your work as your audience sees it. This is something you need to do as often as possible, and never let yourself go for more than 2 hours straight without it. (Why 2 hours?)

Un-seeing the details

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done: knowing the details so well, it might be really hard for you to disregard them.

Part of the solution is to just get better at detaching yourself emotionally from your work when needed. With ideas like working in passes or starting out fast, The CreativityWise method makes it easier to do this. To get a relatively quick overview of the CreativityWise process, check out my video lecture (special free link): The Street Smarts of Creativity: 4 creative breakthroughs in 60 minutes.

A more immediate solution is to show it to people who aren’t too familiar with the work, and ask them how THEY see it. That’s the best way I know of to get a glimpse of how your work might be seen at “audience distance”.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you’re using the right way to ask for feedback!

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