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Category / creativity

Miles Davis, So What, and being in accord no matter the chord

This story that opens jazz great Herbie Hancock’s memoir, Possibilities, is profound: I’m onstage at a concert hall in Stockholm, Sweden, in the mid-1960s playing piano with the Miles Davis Quintet. We’re on tour, and this show is really heating up. The band is tight—we’re all in sync, all on the same wavelength. The music […]

Kurosawa on peaking at 80

I make a point in a talk I do for student groups that there’s no hurry to make your mark or to “hit it big”. There seems to be more pressure than ever for young people to not only have their career figured out right out of college, but to be rich and famous by […]

How we spend our days

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” –Annie Dillard A few years ago I committed to posting something on my blog every day for an indefinite time period to see if I could keep it up. And I did, for a long time. Many days I would get to […]

Do something amazing

I just discovered this message above the exit of my daughter’s middle school. As you exit this week today, do something amazing before you go.  Make a connection that you’ve been meaning to make. Be that person that lights up the room, that summons smiles even from strangers.  Solve a problem. Get started on that […]

Cal Newport: Quit social media

Cal Newport has a knack for counterintuitive insight. His book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, was a compelling challenge to quit trying to find your elusive vocational passion and instead focus on obtaining the kind of mastery that leads to genuine career fulfillment. (Pick a career path you wouldn’t mind getting really good at […]

The worst way to come up with new ideas

Yet, this is standard procedure for most of us. (I, at least, leave my fluorescent lights off while I aimlessly browse the web. Nothing but the warm glow of a desk lamp to light my forays into creative futility.) Nice post on the UGMONK blog to remind you to regularly change your scenery: “How I […]

Mike Birbiglia’s excellent advice

The comedian and filmmaker offers his unsolicited advice, ostensibly to those who want a career as a performer. But these tips apply to anyone who wants to make something meaningful on their own terms. Here’s his final tip: 6. CLEVERNESS IS OVERRATED, AND HEART IS UNDERRATED Plus, there are fewer people competing for heart, so […]

Lin-Manuel Miranda on leaving college with “stuff” already created

Lin-Manuel Miranda is the man of the moment with Hamilton’s incredible success. This Rolling Stone feature sheds some light on his drive. He has written his way to the top. Like the character he portrays on stage, Alexander Hamilton, Miranda is a prolific writer. Here’s Miranda in the Rolling Stone interview talking about his creative […]

Louis CK, the Carlin strategy, and inviting the awful

Plateaus happen. Regularly. Years ago, in the midst of what was at that point an unremarkable career in stand-up comedy, Louis CK was frustrated with the creative rut he found himself in. And then he learned the Carlin strategy, and everything changed. It turns out that George Carlin would record a comedy special every year and […]

Show your work: The Force Awakens edition

I love seeing how creators create. I appreciate a master pulling the curtain back and letting us see at least a bit of the behind-the-scenes process. The chaos and messes and wayward first drafts that lie behind the art are just as instructive as, if not more than, the inspiration and perspiration. I preordered on iTunes the […]

Adam Grant on what thwarts creativity in kids

This was an enlightening New York Times column by the prolific young scholar, Adam Grant. He highlights research that shows that too much structure and a rules-focused environment are not conducive to sparking creative thinking: So what does it take to raise a creative child? One study compared the families of children who were rated among the most […]

Billy Collins on finding your voice

The poet Billy Collins was speaking at a White House poetry student workshop and was asked about “finding your voice”. Here’s a portion of his response as shared by Austin Kleon: Your voice has an external source. It is not lying within you. It is lying in other people’s poetry. It is lying on the […]

Robert Frost on writing that doesn’t work

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. –Robert Frost via Darren Rowse Write what’s real for you, what moves you and what delights and confounds you. Reveal yourself, to the point of discomfort if necessary. Be direct and clear and true, but […]

Consume good stuff to make good stuff

Austin Kleon on what he does if he’s feeling blocked creatively: “When I stall out, it’s time to start taking things in again: read more, re-read, watch movies, listen to music, go to art museums, travel, take people to lunch, etc. Just being open and alert and on the lookout for That Thing that will […]

Don’t wait

True. The best way to know something is to try to express it. I’ve heard people say they don’t want to pursue a relationship until they figure themselves out first. There’s nothing like being in a relationship, though, to reveal yourself to yourself. And don’t wait till you feel inspired to start creating. It’s the […]

You are the creative type

When you say “creative people”, it’s redundant. –Elizabeth Gilbert I listened to the TED Radio Hour podcast today and this episode, The Source of Creativity. It features Sting and Sir Ken Robinson and the author Elizabeth Gilbert all discussing the mystery and magic of the creative process.  Gilbert’s reminder that everyone is creative was particularly […]