… it [the Brain] is a creative organ. The job of my brain is to notice things, tell stories and to understand life.
— Merlin Mann (source)
It’s been around for a while now, but this is such a fantastic talk, it’s worth posting here.
This is another brain-dump type post. As seems to be my way, these things percolate in my head for too long, so I’m just trying to get them out instead of trying to be too structured and lucid. Apologies if it seems a little scattered, but I wanted to share these thoughts and the resources I’ve come across.
It seems like a jumped the gun a little early with my post ‘Steal Like an Artist’. I made a similar point to that made in the video and audio, namely that copying is a source of learning. Art is imitation. My friend Nick, offers an interesting opposing view in the comments.
I’ve been thinking about creativity quite a bit lately. One persistent theme is that creativity is about ‘action’. The title of Patti Digh’s fantastic book on this subject is Creativity is a Verb 1.. I want to emphasis here the word verb — a word used to describe action!
Imagination can be entirely internal. You could be imaginative all day long without anyone noticing. But you would neve say that someone was creative if that person never did anything.
In other words, to be creative is to do something — to apply the imagination! Creativity is a dynamic process.
I subscribe to the idea that everyone is an ‘artist’, or IS creative. If you go by the definition above, anyone who can imagine something can apply themselves to making something of that — of being creative.
But — and here’s another dominant theme — we often don’t believe we are creative, or apply ourselves to the creative act or process because of fear, resistance, or what Michael Ray calls the ‘Voice of Judgement’. 3. Our creative capacity is always there, it’s just covered over.
To overcome this, he tries to set up situations where people can attack this ‘Voice of Judgement’ to access their deeper creativity. Paying attention is an effective way to do this.
Patti Digh offers lots of practical advice in this regard. She also argues that ‘seeing more’ helps access your creativity. Another method she offers for overcoming the resistance — one that resonates strongly with me — is ‘Be ordinary: Put down your clever’. Similarly, centuries ago Rumi said:
“Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.”
Worrying about being clever, smart, funny, creative enough, comparing etc. stops us from doing – from the creative act!
I also loved this Ricky Gervais quote from a recent interview he did ‘on not having a real job’. In it, he says:
If I do something that makes me genuinely laugh, with no ulterior motive other than, ‘that was funny’, then there’ll be someone else in the world that will find it as funny as me … and that will do for me.
What he’s saying is that he’s driven by the creative process rather than the fear or resistance associated with what other people think about his work. Fantastic stuff!
This whole topic of fear and resistance (in relation to creativity) is the subject of entire books, so my intention is not to cover that entire subject matter here. I just finished reading Do the Work by Stephen Pressfield. It’s not a difficult read, so I recommend you go get that if you’re interested in exploring this further.
We ARE all artists — we’ve just need to create; do; make; to unleash that artist within.
It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
— J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets
It reminded me of an article I read recently, titled: How to steal like an artist (and 9 other things nobody told me). It’s one of the best pieces I’ve read in a while.
A quote from the article:
“Here’s what artists understand. It’s a three-word sentence that fills me with hope every time I read it: Nothing is original.”
— Austin Kleon
Great stuff. Definitely worth a read (a couple of times)!
Some time ago, Robyn suggested that I try using the George Ella Lyons ‘Where I’m From’ poem as a writing prompt. I really enjoyed the process of exploration and crafting the words. It’ll be interesting to re-visit this exercise some time in the future and see what emerges. Anyway, here’s my first attempt:
I am from north of the upside-down river; from the Gray-Nicholls double-scoop, BMX bikes and Paddle Pops.
I am from the brick veneer at the top of the court, where kids, big and small, play together and laugh. The smell of fresh cut grass lingers until late in the day.
I am from the eucalypt and spitfire sawfly; the bottle-brush and River Red Gum woodlands.
I am from The Cooks and The Twynhams. George, Floss and Bert, the grandparents I call by name — uncomplicated folk; stubborn and often sharp-tongued yet loving, generous and kind.
I am from the long road trips of happy wanderers and taking the mickey and having a laugh.
From loaves of milk and skies setting sky-blue pink.
I am from the church of sport; we worship our idols on Saturday and try to emulate their feats on Sunday, and dream of one day wearing a baggy green.
I am from the forests once inhabited by Robin and his band of merry men. From pork pies, sloppy peas and yorkshire puddings.
From grandparents who survived the blitz, one who claims the part in his hair was created by Hiawatha’s tomahawk. From parents who left everything behind to start anew.
I am from fond memories not seen or heard often, yet kept close to our hearts. Relatives now passed live vicariously through me — and my kids. I often catch a fleeting glimpse.
There’s been a fair bit of hype about the release of Chrome – Google’s new open source web browser. Yet another browser is of little interest (or use) to me, but have you seen the comic book introducing how the browser works’?
The famous Scott McCloud — who I’ve talked about before — created the comics adaptation. This is so awesome! I just love it.
Go see for yourself.
Convincing people of the power of narrative and encouraging them to tell stories rather than use bullet points in their presentations is often quite difficult. Trust me, it’s harder than it sounds.
In a podcast interview with Elliott Masie, Dan Pink gives a great example that shows it is quite natural and makes perfect sense: When you come home from work and are asked “… how was your day?”, do you get out a series of power points? No. You narrate!