From how I titled this post, one might think it is one of my science fiction posts but the title actually comes from John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) so now you probably have no idea what the underlying theme is. Don’t fret, I’m writing about creativity today. In Belgium, John Cleese gave a lecture, a talk, a confab, presentation… I honestly don’t really know what the correct word would be in this situation. Anyway, he stood on a stage in front of a lot of people and talked about creativity and the subconscious and how we can assist our subconscious in the creative process.
Here is a video of John Cleese doing his thing in Finland with standard John Cleese style.
I know you just saw it so you really don’t need to have me summarize what the video said, but at times I tend to be repetitive so bear with me. I’m just going to drag a few points out of the video for discussion.
Sleeping on a problem
I’ve always found I write better, think clearer, have a more reasonable emotional response to a situation if I stop worrying about it, stop tinkering with it, go to bed, and address it in the morning. I really find this is true when I’m doing any sort of coding. I get into ‘thought ruts’ and after a night’s sleep, I usually have at least one if not more solutions to the problem.
Nothing kills my personal productivity more than interruptions and what is surprising is how many of these interruptions are caused by me. I don’t have people calling me, knocking in my door, or in anyway bugging me, but I do have email coming in, websites that update, new Twitter messages, and beverages that need to be prepared and imbibed. Oh, and this song annoys me, I need to find something better, and I really wonder if there is a font that can express my loathing for this project. Who played in that one show about that one guy who did that thing? All of these things are self-caused interruptions and while it doesn’t kill creativity it slows the process of accomplishing anything way down.
Carving out Space and Time
John Cleese speaks about establishing boundaries of space for creativity and boundaries of time. Within these established boundaries we are absolutely free to play. There isn’t ‘wasting’ time in this oasis because the oasis is the time and place for this type of freedom. I’m going to plug a project of a friend of mine called 30GO30. The idea is setting aside at least 30 minutes over 30 days to work on a personal project. The site itself is set up to invade on time as little as possible. It isn’t trying to be another interruption in the work flow, but a tracker and motivator to help carve out 30 minutes a day to turn into an oasis of space and time.
Of course that or any tool isn’t required, but for creative types working on creative projects, it is important to make that effort to set aside the time and the space to let your mind work, free of constraint and interruption. For writers, which is my particular calling, sitting in front of the computer without checking out the web, staring at the blank screen waiting for words to come is daunting. Trust me when I say that if we are forced to sit there and do nothing else, eventually words will start to flow.
I recall watching one of those house and home shows on The Learning Channel where they helped people declutter their lives. One lesson that stuck with me from the show was when the couple being helped argued vociferously over how much they valued a set of things the expert wanted them to get rid of. The expert countered with, “if you value these so much, why are they in a box in your closet?’ I think this lesson applies to creative projects as well. If you value your project, if it is something you honestly want to do, why aren’t you setting aside the time and space to do it?
Have you done something like NaNoWriMo where you have daily goals? Do you have any secrets to success?