Mastering the balance of restriction and imaginative play, or why unbridling your self-worth from your professional success is essential for happiness.
A journey to the heart of “the mindless, useless, glorious pursuit of artistic truth”:
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life… . Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here — and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.”
Anne Lamott’s timeless wisdom on writing and how perfectionism kills creativity:
"To allow ourselves to spend afternoons watching dancers rehearse, or sit on a stone wall and watch the sunset, or spend the whole weekend rereading Chekhov stories—to know that we are doing what we’re supposed to be doing — is the deepest form of permission in our creative lives. The British author and psychologist Adam Phillips has noted, “When we are inspired, rather like when we are in love, we can feel both unintelligible to ourselves and most truly ourselves.” This is the feeling I think we all yearn for, a kind of hyperreal dream state. We read Emily Dickinson. We watch the dancers. We research a little known piece of history obsessively. We fall in love. We don’t know why, and yet these moments form the source from which all our words will spring."
Dani Shapiro on the pleasures and perils of the creative life – absolutely exquisite meditation:
“If we wish to appreciate the role that genius has played in the modern world, we must [remember] that genius is ultimately the product of the hopes and longings of ordinary people.”
A brief and fascinating history of “genius” – what it is, where it came from, how it evolved, and what it means for us today:
Ray Bradbury oh how to use lists as creative prompts that open “the trapdoor on the top of your skull”:
How to get unstuck – the psychology of overcoming the “OK Plateau” of performance and personal growth:
“In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.”
The art of “creative sleep” – Stephen King on writing and wakeful dreaming:
The science of “positive constructive daydreaming” – how our mind-wandering enhances creativity
"Failure is a process … you have to fail over and over and over again to get anything that’s worthwhile, and to try everything."
Half a century later, Jules Feiffer and Norton Juster reflect on creating one of the most beloved children’s classics of all time in these exclusive video excerpts from a new documentary:
Color-coded muses, rotten apples, self-imposed house arrest, and other creative techniques at the intersection of the superstitious and the pragmatic
What is a human being? Complex to the point of absurdity, a whole person is both greedy and generous. It is foolish to think we can’t be both artists and entrepreneurs, especially when Henson was so wildly successful in both categories.
Fantastic, necessary read – what Muppets creator Jim Henson teaches us about making art and making money while maintaining creative integrity:
“When you’re trying to create a career as a writer, a little delusional thinking goes a long way.”
Michael Lewis on writing, idea-integrity vs. commercial success, and the necessary self-delusions of creativity:
Graham Wallas’s timeless 1926 model for the four stages of the creative process – preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification – and how to master them.
“Because it is possible to create — creating one’s self, willing to be one’s self… — one has anxiety. One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever.”
Essential reading: What Kierkegaard’s philosophy teaches us about the vital relationship between anxiety and creativity