One of my favorite creators is John Cleese. I fell in love with him at the $3.00 all day art house film festival back in the 70’s watching all the Monty Python movies. It was a cheap way to have too much fun and smoke a dobie without your parents smelling it. We would roll in around 10:00am and not leave until 7:00pm. My cheeks would hurt from laughing and it would take a week to get the popcorn kernels out of my teeth.
Back then, Monty Python was considered so unusual, strange and comedy altering, that many creative architects studied them. They were the first to try gender switching, use multi media (their use of cartoons to elaborate a point) and their improv was pure genius.
That kind of unadulterated inspiration doesn’t happen much anymore because we are so saturated with data and content. My goal today is to send you back to that original space where creativity starts (funny or otherwise). Enjoy!
by Maria Popova
“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”
Much has been said about how creativity works, its secrets, its origins, and what we can do to optimize ourselves for it. In this excerpt from his fantastic 1991 lecture, John Cleese offers a recipe for creativity, delivered with his signature blend of cultural insight and comedic genius. Specifically, Cleese outlines “the 5 factors that you can arrange to make your lives more creative”:
- 1. Space (“You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures.”)
- 2. Time (“It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time.”)
- 3. Time (“Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original,” and learning to tolerate the discomfort of pondering time and indecision.)
- 4. Confidence (“Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”)
- 5. Humor (“The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.”)
This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.
The lecture is worth a watch in its entirety, below, if only to get a full grasp of Cleese’s model for creativity as the interplay of two modes of operating — open, where we take a wide-angle, abstract view of the problem and allow the mind to ponder possible solutions, and closed, where we zoom in on implementing a specific solution with narrow precision. Along the way, Cleese explores the traps and travails of the two modes and of letting their osmosis get out of balance.
A few more quotable nuggets of insight excerpted below the video.
Your assignment: Write at least 500 words using the following elements:
2. Time Machine
3. Sea Horse
Try to open your mind and let the strange creation happen. Have fun!