The secret is that the shit is fun to me. Finding a new groove to make a new song, that shit is fun. When you get the beat right and then the hooks and the bridges and the lyrics and it all comes together it’s like this feeling that you get like you hit the jackpot. I can only describe it as trying to unlock the combination to a safe. Once you get inside it, boom.
An essential aspect of a painter’s canvas and a musical instrument is the immediacy with which the artist gets something there to react to. A canvas or sketchbook serves as an “external imagination”, where an artist can grow an idea from birth to maturity by continuously reacting to what’s in front of him.
Learnable Programming. Also:
As a child, you probably had the experience of playing with a construction kit of some kind – Legos, or Erector Sets, or even just blocks. As a first act before starting to build, a child will often spread out all of the parts on the floor. This provides more than simply quick access. It allows the child to scan the available parts and get new ideas. A child building a Lego car might spot a wide flat piece, and decide to give the car wings.
When I talk to young composers, I tell them, I know that you’re all worried about finding your voice. Actually you’re going to find your voice. By the time you’re 30, you’ll find it. But that’s not the problem. The problem is getting rid of it. You have to find an engine for change. And that’s what collaborative work does. Whatever we do together will make us different.
Started reading this last year, finished it a few weeks ago. My favorite sentence from the book which maybe summarizes it best: “The internet is an opportunity machine.”
My other favorite passage, which I’ve already posted, but I’ll repost here anyways:
The stupidest creative act is still a creative act… On the spectrum of creative work, the difference between the mediocre and the good is vast. Mediocrity is, however, still on the spectrum; you can move from mediocre to good in increments. The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something.
Oh, by the way: it’s fun to pay attention to subtitles, especially when a book comes in a hardback/paperback edition — the paperback edition usually shows the evolution (or devolution) of the publisher’s marketing of the book. The hardcover subtitle of Cognitive Surplus is “Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age” vs. the paperback subtitle, “How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators.” When Lewis Hyde’s The Gift came out, the subtitle was “Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property”—later, much later, it was “Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.”
That favorite passage reminds me of Peter Thiel talking about horizontal business vs. vertical business. Going from 1 to N, copying things that work, incrementally spreading and improving, is hard, yes. But going from 0 to 1 is really, really hard in a very different way.
TC: The best way to [figure things out for ourselves] is by making things — whether it’s a website, an app, or a little book.
DB: So the act of making becomes an act of definition.
TC: Exactly — definition in its original sense of mapping a thing’s contours, in order to make something that’s fuzzy easier to see.
Something a college professor of mine told me: it’s not about making students love the same things that you do, but showing them that they can love something just as much. And that it’s OKAY, it’s IMPORTANT, for them to find something that they love that much.
The great thing about dead or remote masters is that they can’t refuse you as an apprentice. You can learn whatever you want from them. They left their lesson plans in their work.
I sort of hate book trailers, so I made a cute dog video disguised as one instead.
My relationship with Amazon was
deeply harmed when they told me my pre-ordered copy isn’t coming until March 1st restored when I got an update that it should arrive tomorrow! Hurry it up Good job, guys!
Because rumination may allow an idea to stay in one’s conscious longer and indecision may result in more time on a given task, it was expected that these two cognitive processes may predict creativity. Self-report measures of rumination, indecision, and creativity were electronically distributed to 85 adults (28 men, 57 women; M age = 32.96 years old). Reflective rumination significantly predicted creativity, moderated by high levels of indecision. This study may resolve previous conflicts between findings on rumination and creativity and introduces indecision as beneficial in the creative process. This study also provided important clinical implications in distinguishing between adaptive and maladaptive rumination suggesting a new cognitive link between creativity and depression.
Insert the “One Single Study Often Means Jack Shit” disclaimer here. But it reminded me of Alain de Botton:
Being cheerful is really no recipe to get down to work: nothing happens until paranoia, jealousy, competitiveness and guilt arrive.
And also of Roz Chast:
I kind of tend to stay up late just about every night, anywhere from 12:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. I putter. I nurse old grudges. I fold origami while nursing old grudges. I think about the past. I wonder if there’s any grudges I should start.
They say you only live once but every time I come to work I feel like I’m starting a second life.
Do things the long, hard, stupid way – Frank Chimero. Finally got around to watching @fchimero’s talk on struggle, creativity, gifts. Worthwhile, as usual.
It’s so easy not to realize you’re under someone else’s influence. When we tell ourselves something, it’s always in our own voice, so it naturally seems like our idea. (Though we can often hear the influence when we say things aloud to others.)
Making things is a better way to spend your time than staring at the wall contemplating what little time you’ve got left.
The reason I have an a cappella group is because it gives me every Tuesday evening the chance to do some surrendering. Which is, by the way, the reason people go to church, I think, as well. And to art galleries. What you want from those experiences is to be reminded of what it’s like to be taken along by something. To be taken. To be lifted up, to be whatever the other words for transcendence are. And I think we find those experiences in at least four areas. Religion, sex, art, and drugs. […] Essentially they’re all experiments with ourselves in trying to remind ourselves that the controlling talent that we have must be balanced by the surrendering talent that we also have. And so my idea about art as gardening.
People have not yet learned that every work of art is a game played out at the worktable. Nothing is more harmful to creativity than the passion of inspiration. It’s the fable of bad romantics that fascinates bad poets and bad narrators. Art is a serious matter. Manzoni and Flaubert, Balzac and Stendhal wrote at the worktable. That means to construct, like an architect plans a building. Yet we prefer to believe that a novelist invents because he has a genius whispering into his ear.
Summarizing some of Marjorie Perloff’s ideas on unoriginal genius:
Today’s writer resembles more a programmer than a tortured genius, brilliantly conceptualizing, constructing, executing, and maintaining a writing machine.
For the past several years, I’ve taught a class at the University of Pennsylvania called “Uncreative Writing.” In it, students are penalized for showing any shred of originality and creativity. Instead they are rewarded for plagiarism, identity theft, repurposing papers, patchwriting, sampling, plundering, and stealing. Not surprisingly, they thrive.
Like yesterday’s Oscar Wilde, here’s favorites from another good bit of vacation reading.* First a bit on imagination, and that there’s nothing new, just what we take in and recombine:
The mind of man possesses a sort of creative power of its own; either in representing at pleasure the images of things in the order and manner in which they were received by the senses, or in combining those images in a new manner, and according to a different order. This power is called Imagination; and to this belongs whatever is called wit, fancy, invention, and the like. But it must be observed, that this power of the imagination is incapable of producing any thing absolutely new; it can only vary the disposition of those ideas which it has received from the senses.
Burke argues that, when comparing, it’s easier and to our benefit to look more for similarities than differences:
The mind of man has naturally a far greater alacrity and satisfaction in tracing resemblances than in searching for differences; because by making resemblances we produce new images, we unite, we create, we enlarge our stock; but in making distinctions we offer no food at all to the imagination; the task itself is more severe and irksome, and what pleasure we derive from it is something of a negative and indirect nature.
Ain’t nothing you can’t learn from. Also reminds me of Seth Roberts’ writing on appreciative thinking and Philip Ball’s suggestion that “Ideas and views that differ from one’s own should not be targets for demolition, but whetstones for sharpening one’s own thoughts.”.
He goes on to talk about our opinions and tastes, how we outgrow them, and how our smugness and satisfaction with our own views is a second-order pleasure at best. This strikes me as something well worth remembering:
Almost the only pleasure that men have in judging better than others, consists in a sort of conscious pride and superiority, which arises from thinking rightly; but then, this is an indirect pleasure, a pleasure which does not immediately result from the object which is under contemplation. In the morning of our days, when the senses are unworn and tender, when the whole man is awake in every part, and the gloss of novelty fresh upon all the objects that surround us, how lively at that time are our sensations, but how false and inaccurate the judgments we form of things? I despair of ever receiving the same degree of pleasure from the most excellent performances of genius, which I felt at that age from pieces which my present judgment regards as trifling and contemptible.
We change our opinions over time (hopefully some, at least) by learning more, paying more attention, and thinking about them more. Slow opinions tend to be better. See also stong opinions, weakly held.
Men of the best taste, by consideration, come frequently to change these early and precipitate judgments, which the mind, from its aversion to neutrality and doubt, loves to form on the spot. It is known that the taste (whatever it is) is improved exactly as we improve our judgment, by extending our knowledge, by a steady attention to our object, and by frequent exercise. They who have not taken these methods, if their taste decides quickly, it is always uncertainly; and their quickness is owing to their presumption and rashness, and not to any sudden irradiation, that in a moment dispels all darkness from their minds.
The better part of my work on media is actually somewhat like a safe-cracker’s. I don’t know what’s inside; maybe it’s nothing. I just sit down and start to work. I grope, I listen, I test, I accept and discard; I try out different sequences — until the tumblers fall and the doors spring open.