Part 3 on practicing creativity. Vigilance. Bee stings. Total Recall (yes, again). Was Not Was. Ejaculation. He Man Woman Haters Club. Hypnogogic states. Un-Mindfulness. Is eccentricity a prerequisite for being creative or does practicing creativity exercises turn you into a kook? Dog trainers.
Roger CortonHow you feeling, son?
JCHNot great. I just got past one of my little episodes, right? So I go out into the yard, you know, literally to smell the flowers, and a bumblebee flies right up my nose.Ever had a sting on the inside of the snoot?
RCUp your nose? Ouch! If it weren’t for bad like you’d have no luck at all, son. But you have been talking about expecting the unexpected!
I’m here to tell you that mindfulness is often the enemy of creativity. In fact I think that Un-mindfulness may be the key to creativity; the ability to go off on a tangent and have multiple things crashing into another in your mind. Getting all jumbed up. You can meditate on your little prayer pillow all day, but if you really want a fresh idea? You gotta be listening for all the chaotic junk whizzing about you every day.
JCHI have, haven’t I? Well, you caught me. That was a perfect moment to find me some creativity, but I missed it completely.
RCJust curious, what do you do for that sort of thing?
JCHMissing a creative opportuniy? I rant about it to you, of course.
RCNo, no. I mean, what do you do about a bee sting inside the nose?
JCHCrushed ice. Jam it in there real tight. Like Ahnold in “Total Recall”.
RCNot that again. Okay, were talking about improving creativity.
JCHRight. And as I was saying that was just the kind of moment I should have taken full advantage of. Seriously. You mentioned last time the word “vigilance”. That’s a great word. That is exactly what is the hardest part of creativity. Looking out for those goofy moments when two things intersect.
RCLike when a bee stings you just as you’re smelling the flower?
JCHExactly. But that’s not really the hard part. For most people I’ll tell you what the hard part is.
RCI can’t wait.
JCHThe hard part is dropping what ever it is you’re doing and making it your mission in life to chronicle that moment. You know, to write it down or play it into your little recorder or do whatever you need to do so that six months from now you can come back to it and we call that moment. Most times something happens like that; it might be mildly amusing…
RCAs in seeing yourself get stung up the nose on America’s funniest home videos…
JCHQuite. It might be poignant, touching, sad, whatever. I mean a lot of the time you know when these moments happen. Over the years I’ve had students who, I mean seriously all the time will be posting stuff on Facebook that just touches them. That’s how they document life. They’ll take the time to put in all those hashtags and all that shit, and don’t think twice. But stopping to maybe think how that might be a song idea? Doesn’t occur! It literally doesn’t occur to most people, even guys who play, to make the creative left turn.
RCThe left turn?
JCHYeah, the decision to put that energy into finding the musical idea. What most people choose to do is to express that energy for something that moves them–in whatever way it moves them–into social media or this or that or whatever. But what they do not do is channel it into a musical idea.
RCSo you’re saying that when that bee stings it’s like, as you often say, firing a gun? You only get one shot at that creative, I can’t believe I’m saying this but, “ejaculation”.
JCHEjaculation? Now you’re speaking my language! Feels good, don’t it? Let it fly, let it fly! Ejaculate, brother!
That’s exactly what it is. Something comes along that fires those synapses and I do believe you get one shot to blow your wad on it and it’s either going down in your music book or out all over Facebook. But it’s goin’ somewhere! Emotionally speaking of course.
RCBut of course.
JCHAnd you want to know why people do that? Because they don’t value creativity. They may say that they want to be creative, but when the moment strikes, they put the real effort into the other ways to express their feelings. Like I always say, people are what they do.
RCWell maybe we’re just self-conscious?
JCHI’ve been thinking about that a lot. Because I don’t think there are too many more stupid things than watching people at dinner see something cute and then decide to Instagram it. Something has happened in our culture where that stuff has become acceptable.
RCWell, taking snapshots was always acceptable when you are on vacation, right? I don’t see a real difference.
JCHOK ya got me there. But let’s say you have a bee sting, or your pet does something entertaining or your girlfriend leaves or whatever? I believe there is also the fact that most people simply do not feel comfortable stopping what they’re doing grabbing the smartphone and recording musical idea that just hit. You see what I’m saying? You’re at that dinner party and some moment happens that’s emotionally poignant, and people think nothing of grabbing their phone and snap chatting or whatever it is they do. But same circumstance, you grab your phone and then you start singing, “O my Lord, this pasta…:
RCYeah, remember that Was Not Was song?
JCHNeedless to say, the party broke up.
RCThat’s the one.
JCHAt the end of the day, you have to have the attitude that your response to things that happen around you that are interesting, your energy is going to go into coming up with an idea for a song or composition or whatever it is you do to be creative.
RCThat is a tough ask my friend.
JCHAgain, I don’t think so. We spend so much time these days multitasking. Most of us have an almost boundless desire to try to do ten things at once.
RCAnd then there are people like you who just naturally go off on tangents.
JCHThat’s right! In fact I spent a lot of my life trying to be less ‘tangential’. So many people these days want to be more “mindful”. It is considered a good thing to just focus on the one thing you’re doing right now.
RCRight. I believe that.
JCHWell I’m here to tell you that mindfulness is often the enemy of creativity. In fact I think that Un-mindfulness may be the key to creativity; the ability to go off on a tangent and have multiple things crashing into another in your mind. Getting all jumbed up. You can meditate on your little prayer pillow all day, but if you really want a fresh idea? You gotta be listening for all the chaotic junk whizzing about you every day.
RCWell you know what they say, “A mind is a terrible thing to lose.” I’m not sure I get what you mean.
JCHWell, you’ve heard of those psychological experiments where the subject is listening to multiple conversations at once and asked to write down what they hear.
RCRight. And they mix the two conversations together. Like I said, the words get all jumbled.
JCHExactly. That is one of the classic accidents the causes creativity to happen. When that happens at that dinner party…
RCThat was one hell of a dinner party…
JCHOh it was one for the history books. When that happened at the dinner party, the creative thing to do was to notice it and then grab your phone or your notebook or whatever and and get it down. Get it down immediately. And get it down in a way that it can be remembered six months from don’t put your energy into tweeting about the hysterical thing that happened, risk being thought of as weird and write it down.
RCSo eccentricity is a big part of it?
JCHYeah. I’ve come to the sad conclusion that eccentricity is a big part of the deal. But not as a cause; rather as the effect of trying to capture these moments! I think a lot of people consider this sort of goofy behavior as some pretense. Some affect that artists put on to look more self-important.
RCBut it’s really not?
JCHNot in my case, chief. If you actually live what I’ve been talking about you’re going to look like a kook. That’s just the deal. But it’s the only way you can get those ideas down. It’s the price you pay.
RCLooking like a kook to the rest of the world.
JCHTrust me, I get that. For example, every book I’ve ever read on ‘creativity’ talks about how you should write down ideas that you get while you’re falling asleep. You know what I’m talking about…
RCThe hypnogogic state. We’ve talked about it a bit before. I used to get ideas all the time as I was falling asleep. But I could never remember to write them down.
JCHMe neither. In spite of all my supposed willingness to ‘be creative’. Wanna know why?
JCHGoyls. I’ve never had a wife or girlfriend who could put up with that.
RCC’mon. Never? You’re sounding like you just upgraded your membership in The He-Man Woman Haters Club to Lifetime.
JCHOh they all say, “Honey, if you get an idea while yer dropping off, WRITE IT DOWN!” They want to prove that they (cough) support your ‘creativity’. But if you actually grabbed for your phone or pen and paper after they’ve rolled over?
RCYou’re in trouble.
JCHYou know it. Because the most precious thing in the world to a woman…
RCBesides her children…
JCHOK, second most precious. Her beauty sleep. Do NOT fuck with a woman’s sleep! You could be motherfuckin’ Ludwig Van Stravinsky and it wouldn’t matter.
RCLudwig. Stravinsky. Uh huh. Look, it’s not a woman thing, dude. You mess with anyone’s sleep over the age of thirty five and you’re asking for trouble.
JCHPoint taken. I am bitter. (laughs) My point is that I get how hard it is to behave like I’m suggesting. Some things you can get past. And some you can’t. I’m totally cool with stopping what I’m doing to jot down an idea and I believe that’s one reason I get more ideas than you do.
RCNeener, neener, neener.
JCHSee. SEE! I knew you’d go there! That’s my point. I try to tell ya what it takes to get more ideas but it’s like being a dog trainer.
JCHYeah, man. Dog trainer. Everyone who’s ever had a dog takes them to one of those eight week ‘basic commands’ classes. And every class they tell ya that ya gotta practice AT HOME. And they give ya EXERCISES. And ya know how many people actually do ’em?
RCGot it. Dog trainer. Diet coach. I get it. People want to know how to do things, but then you give them the answer and they don’t execute. I admit it. We all want something for nothing. Happy now?
RCI thought you already made your point?
JCHOne of my points is not to beat on people for wanting something for nothing. My main point is to try and convince somebody that working on your creativity is doable. It’s just like practicing scales. Whether or not you do it is up to you, but one excuse that does not fly is that ‘creativity cannot be taught’. It definitely can. You may not like the answers, but we’ve been doing it for three weeks.
RCSomehow it seems a lot longer at the moment (laughs).
JCHWell, I wanna stretch this out one more session and answer the really important question.
JCHWhy don’t you tune in next week for the final episode in our exciting series!
RCI walked right into that one.