The “Known Unknowns” of Creative Work

a treadmill for algernon

There is a replicate-able formula for writing a successful movie script, but no formula exists for creating a viral video.   Both are creative works. Yet, defining what makes one creative work more or less creative than another is almost impossible to do, as that would be a very subjective exercise to undertake.  In a similar way, the lifespan and lifecycle of a creative work is not really predictable either.

In the words of Faris Yakob, “Viral is a thing that happens, not a thing that is.”

In the viral world, for something to be original in form, content, or delivery is not enough.  There is some kind of a unique spark or interaction of ingredients that needs to occur that sets viral content in motion. 

In the post: “Study Suggests Formula For Viral Success”, there is an attempt to define this critical yet elusive ingredient as a “meme element synergy”.  Somehow that sounds more like a “known unknown” than a “known known” to me.

Either way, this suggests that if we are looking to create a unique synergy (i.e., interaction of elements) of our own, we need to constantly be experimenting not knowing which combination(s) will be the successful one(s).

A post in Quora entitled, “What Makes Something Interesting”, makes some other useful distinctions for us here. First it differentiates between “novelty” and “thought-provoking”.  Then it clarifies that some thing is interesting as long as it is new, but only until it isn’t new any more.

If we are looking to isolate the “newness” factor in creative work, we need to expect that it will have an unpredictable lifecycle that will allow it to live on only as long as conditions remain for it to survive before it dies off.

Whatever we create will always be dependent on the conditions that exist at the time of inception.  Yet, what happens after creativity is actively applied is anyone’s guess, it is not predictable.  There is no way for us to reliably predict the impact of our creative work.  But, therein lies the magic and beauty of Creativity, too.

Getting comfortable with: uncertainty, known unknowns, and unpredictability seem to be factors that creative people will always need to be (or get) comfortable with.

How are you at dealing with the unknowns of your creative work?


Photo Credit:    title=”a treadmill for algernon” by woodleywonderworks, on Flickr


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