“Life really begins when you have discovered that you can do anything you want.”
A wonderful 1949 guide to doing what you love.
“By the force and power of the artist’s vision the static, synthetic whole which is called the world is destroyed. The artist gives back to us a vital, singing universe, alive in all is parts.”
Henry Miller on creative death
“The opposite of play is not what is serious but what is real.”
Freud on daydreaming and creative writing.
A tiny but potent compendium of field-tested, life-approved insight on optimizing the creative process from some of today’s most exciting artists, designers, illustrators, writers, and thinkers.
From the many specific strategies — walks in nature, porn, destruction of technology, weeping — a few powerful universals emerge, including the role of procrastination, the importance of a gestation period for ideas, and, above all, the reminder that the “creative block” befalls everyone indiscriminately.
“Presuming that there is such a thing as ‘progress’ when it comes to music is typical of the high self-regard of those who live in the present. It is a myth. Creativity doesn’t ‘improve.’”
The legendary Talking Head presents a fascinating counter-intuitive theory of creativity, based on a lifetime of making and thinking about music.
“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”
“Part of a reader’s job is to find out why certain writers endure. This may require some rewiring, unhooking the connection that makes you think you have to have an opinion about the book and reconnecting that wire to whatever terminal lets you see reading as something that might move or delight you. You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.”
“Art must lead beyond the arts, to an awareness and a share of mutuality.”
Fantastic 1963 essay about the role of the creative arts in society.
“To stay sane in an insane world as a creative man or woman he or she must…” 6 rules for creative sanity from iconic psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich at the link.
On August 7th, 1974, shortly after the World Trade Center was erected, French high-wire artist Philippe Petit stood in front of the impossible and took it full stride as he walked 200 feet between the Twin Towers, 1,368 feet above ground, on a 55-pound balancing rope. Dubbed “the artistic crime of the century,” the feat took six years of planning. Petit — who never finished formal education — had to acquaint himself with the most esoteric details of engineering, architecture, and the physics of wind, among other preemptive intricacies. At long last, Petit tells his story of autodidactic learning and creative ingenuity in a broader context of how to live life with “patience and tenacity” in an age of silver bullets and shortcuts.
“There are only four types of person you can be. Identify yourself:
Very bright, Industrious (You’re perfect)
Very bright, Lazy (A damn shame)
Stupid, Lazy (You’l just sit on your ass, so you’re a wash.)
Stupid, Industrious (Oh, oh, you’re dangerous.)
If you’re a number 1 or a 2, you’ll get a lot out of this book. If you’re a number 3 or 4, why are you reading this book?”
Creative legend and legendary curmudgeon George Lois offers a lifetime of damn good advice in this gem.
George Orwell outlines the four universal motives for creation – ” sheer egoism; aesthetic enthusiasm; historical impulse; political purpose” – and explains the psychology and social purpose of each. Details at the link.
“We create the new not generally through some mad moment of inspiration in fictionalized accounts of ancient Greeks in baths… but by putting things together that do not normally go together; from taking disciplines… and seeing what happens when they are forced into unanticipated collision.”
Both a strong, pointed conceptual vision for the nature and origin of creativity, and a kind of activity book for grown-ups that invites you to learn how to implement the skill set of creativity through a series of hands-on exercises applicable wherever your creative journey may take you, from the studio to the classroom to the boardroom.
The iconic existential philosopher, who would have been 107 today, on the figure-ground relationship between the real and the irreal, or why “being-in-the-world-ness” is the key to the imagination.
“Most people aren’t trained to want to face the process of re-understanding a subject they already know. One must obtain not just literacy, but deep involvement and re-understanding.”