Cleese’s creativity tips: sleep, avoid interruption

Nice talk by John Cleese about creativity. Things that emerge for me:

1) sleep on it — he has a great story about losing a killer first draft of a sketch, forcing himself to re-write it from memory a day later, finding the first draft and discovering that the second draft was quite a bit better. Creativity isn’t a moment in time, the unconscious mind, different parts of the mind, create even when you’re not consciously setting out to do it. Reminds me a little of the story about Ray Bradbury reading Moby Dick 60 times and certain parts 100 times to ‘get it into the bloodstream’ as a source of creativity when writing the screenplay for the movie.

2) don’t get interrupted — find the flow, nothing new here, but there’s something refreshing about the lack of theory and his willingness to use simple language and simple stories to convey his “system” (which he doesn’t have, he just has some thoughts)

3) we don’t know where ideas come from — at first blush it feels like he weakly answers this (funny, but weak) but I think there’s something powerful in refusing to answer the questions, insisting that we don’t know, insisting that it isn’t from our tools and referring us back to the mysteries of the unconscious to force us to cultivate creativity instead of looking for ideas.

4) stop the mania — if you’re just keeping the balls in the air, “you’re not going to have creative ideas”.

Before a rather frightening riff on self-awareness, he describes creativity as our little tortoise mind a timid, plodding, easily spooked thing (I suppose, the editing only leaves us the image, not the setup) and advises: “Set boundaries of space . . . boundaries of time, create a physical and mental oasis . . . then and only then can you play.”

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