Liberations of Creativity
I liked all the familiar artist references in that last post, Jim. Thanks.
(the following is a non surrealist internet cut up art tech, in effort to connect with non-local consciousness. )
Burroughs taught cut-up technique to Genesis P-Orridge in 1971 as a method for "altering reality".
Burroughs' explanation was that everything is recorded, and if it is recorded, then it can be edited. P-Orridge has long employed cut-ups as an applied philosophy, a way of creating art and music, and of conducting one's life.
How to Boost Your Creative Output
Working productively can be broken down into several key skills: time management, organization and controlling your attention and energy. One of the often neglected but most important factors is your creative output. Successful people tend to have an unusually high creative output and I’d like to offer some tips for how you can boost yours.
What is Creativity?
Creativity is often compared with originality. When you see someone who can come up with unique ideas, you say they are “creative”. Picasso was creative because of his unique painting style. J.R.R. Tolkien was creative for writing The Lord of the Rings. Linus Torvalds is creative for starting Linux.
There is another way of viewing creativity. The root word of creativity is create. Creativity can be seen not just on how original your ideas are, but how many of them you can produce. Creative output is a measure of your ability to churn out creations.
Thomas Edison held over a thousand patents in his name. Leonardo da Vinci was an astronomer, painter, engineer, inventor, poet and writer. Although both had unique ideas, there creative output dwarfed most of their colleagues.
Why Does Creative Output Matter?
Isn’t quality supposed to be more important than quantity? The problem is that with creative output, quality and quantity are completely independent. A few people have gotten the wrong idea about creative output. The myth that having a higher output will somehow reduce the quality of the ideas you create.
Having a high quantity of ideas doesn’t reduce the quality of ideas; quantity enhances quality.
I write for several sites as well as my own. A couple fellow bloggers disagreed with this strategy. Won’t you be giving away your best ideas so other websites will profit off them? This assumes that each idea I create reduces the total ideas available to write about. This is ridiculous.
Ideas are not zero-sum. Having one idea doesn’t reduce the amount of ideas you are able to produce. Boosting your creative output requires changing how you channel attention. It has nothing to do with depleting an imaginary idea-bank inside your brain.
How to Boost Your Output
The most important way you can boost your output is to get rid of the zero-sum assumption. If you feel that each idea created limits your ability to create new ideas, you’re output will be only a trickle. The best writers, programmers, designers and idea-generators I know believe that the supply of ideas is endless, you only need to know how to turn on the flow.
Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Churn Without Judgment. If you stress about the quality of work you are outputting, then the flow will be cut off. Writers block is a symptom of perfectionism. Churn first, judge later.
2. Idea Breeding. Use past ideas to generate new ideas. I’ve written close to 500 articles in the past two years. If I ever get stuck, all I need to do is search through past articles. Almost always they leave unanswered questions that can be tackled with a new article.
3. Creative Input. Feed your brain with books. I read about 50-70 books a year. The most creative people I know can read over a 100. By devouring knowledge you add to the variety of ideas you can produce.
4. Be Patient. It can take awhile for your brain to get into the right flow. I can write 1500 words in an hour when I’m in the right mental state. But that state often requires waiting through twenty minutes where I type no more than a sentence. Take the time to accelerate your creative flow.
5. Use Large Time Chunks. Since it takes time to warm up your creative muscles, you can’t expect to go fast if you are constantly stopping. Use large chunks of time where you can build up speed and work for a few hours before taking a break.
6. Publish Garbage. If you are starting out in a new pursuit, you have only one goal: boost creative output. This often means publishing junk until you train yourself to do a better job. Feedback from the world (not self-judgement) is the fastest way to hone your creative flow.
7. Set a Quota. Give yourself a certain output criteria for each day, week or month. This will build up a high creative output that can later be refined. Instead of just creating when you feel like it, set a high goal. Sometimes you’ll produce garbage. But you’ll also produce a lot more winners than by being a perfectionist.
8. Hit the Challenge Zone. If you set too few standards for quality, you won’t improve. But if you set too high standards, your creative output will plummet. The challenge zone is the area where you have enough challenge to improve yourself but not so much that you can’t perform.
9. Aim With Your Challenge Zone. There is a tendency to use external factors to define your standards. For example, you want to become a musician, so you decide to set your standards to one of your favorite bands. This is a mistake. By setting the challenge zone to external criteria you kill your creative output or kill your quality. You only need to compete with yourself, don’t judge yourself by other standards.
10. Nuke Those Assumptions. If you assume that your creative output is fixed, it will be. Give yourself a high quota and aim within your challenge zone. You’ll probably be surprised at how much more you can produce if you force yourself to. More importantly, you’ll probably be surprised that quality doesn’t usually suffer when you boost creative output.
Scott Young is a university student who writes about productivity, habits and self-improvement. Scott has been featured on the Be Happy Dammit! Show.
Why being yourself matters
“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice…it is conformity.”
~ Rollo May, Man’s Search for Himself.
There will never be anyone else like you in the future of the universe. There has never been anyone exactly like you since human life began. That’s why being yourself is more important than anything else; certainly more than the fear that traps people into conforming.
Non-conformists have always had a rough time. Society seems to need and fear them in roughly equal measure. As a person who was a teenager in the “swinging 60s,” I’ve seen a gray tide of conservatism flow back steadily to reclaim nearly all the ground it lost during that decade. Is this an advantage? If it is, I can’t see it. But that’s how life works: two steps forward, followed by one-and-a-half back as those who lost their power try to reverse the process.
The forces of the status quo—of conformity—have been strong again in recent years. Maybe that’s behind an upsurge in interest in self-development. When the outside world is intent on forcing you into a bland, acceptable mold, people naturally turn elsewhere to find an outlet for what matters most: their own uniqueness.
Adding some spice to life
Even the Bible says it. Jesus urged his followers to be like salt; to spice up the world with new ideas. He didn’t tell them to keep their heads down and do whatever their “betters” amongst the Romans and the Pharisees told them. You don’t start a new religion by fitting in. Today’s religious leaders are nearly all arch-conservatives, so we forget what radical non-conformists people like the Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed were during their lives. Jesus wasn’t put to death for doing what the leaders of the society of his day approved of, was he?
Those who benefit most from the status quo are naturally the least interested in change, and they find allies in the fearful and the authoritarian. In the quotation at the head of this article, Rollo May suggests conformity is due to lack of courage. He certainly had a point. Many people suppress their ideas, hopes, and dreams because they’re afraid to stand out and draw attention to themselves. Conformity always includes a threat of punishment if you fail to fit in, whether it comes from ridicule, being shunned by others, or direct attack. Those who seek conformity have never been afraid to back up their wishes with force.
Conformity implies a fundamental mistrust of others
I believe there’s a more fundamental power behind the urgency with which authoritarian conservatives seek to suppress individuality. That power is lack of trust. Wise leaders and outstanding thinkers are alike in two things: they’re usually non-conformists on an epic scale—and they display a deep trust in the basic goodness, intelligence, and capacity for development of their fellow human beings.
In stark contrast, the most determined proponents of conformity have always been dictatorships. Under a dictatorship, any kind of variation from prescribed ways of thinking or acting is punished. Eccentrics of all kinds are weeded out. Nothing is permissible save blind adherence to the dictator’s edicts.
Conservative thinkers often suggest too much freedom will lead to anarchy and the collapse of all standards. Since they cannot trust others to behave reasonably, they always want more rules. Yet a dictatorship is exactly what you get when the ideas and standards of one group are enforced everywhere by the rule of law. Whether it’s a nation or a business, a dictatorship suppresses creativity, individuality, and freedom in the cause of “preventing license.”
If you can’t trust yourself, why should others trust you?
Being who and what you are is the most natural thing there is. To suppress it, whether through fear, yielding to social pressure, or lack of confidence always leads to trouble. That’s why millions of people today lead lives of frustration and desperation. They denied who they are in the hope that the powers that be would reward them. Their reward was mediocrity, depression and a nagging sense that life like that is scarcely worth living.
There may be a cost. Some people, even some friends, will disapprove of you as you truly are and will let you know it. There will be setbacks along the way. Yet the price for being yourself can never be as great as the price you will pay for stepping aside from your basic nature: a price paid in frustration, dissatisfaction, and the hopeless realization of all that you might have been, but now can never attain. The English poet A.E. Housman, a closet homosexual who lived a life of outward conformity and lonely respectability, expressed something of the idea like this:
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
Take up the challenge. Be whatever nature designed you to be. Never mind whether you face disapproval from those who lack the courage to follow the same route.
Conformity has very little to recommend it. Trust yourself and trust others. Our world has so little trust even a little more is precious. If you can’t trust who you are—the naturally valuable, curious, interesting, and exciting person you were born to be—why should anyone else trust you?
Mediocrity and inner frustration are the true price of conforming. Only those with the courage openly to live their dreams can ever hope to find lasting satisfaction with their lives.
Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest, and satisfaction to leadership and working life. Recent articles there on similar topics include Teaching eagles to run and The Law of Repulsion. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization, is now available at all good bookstores.
personification of the anonymous" (59). The problem with an organisation that is simply the collection of a group of individuals who are sovereign over their own ‘private consciousness’, who thus have no concern for the space between people, and consequently for an unrepressed activation of social relations as the situationistic formation of what Thorsen called a ‘communicative field’, is that the organisation they have formed projects in front of them a mask to cover over a rampant individuality grounded on an unstated repression (the ‘unacceptable’ that cannot be made any more ‘precise’). One facet of such an individuality is that it not only seeks itself as its own ideal, but it projects its ideals forward before it as an unresponsive disavowal of intimate communication that helps it protect the sovereignty of its own experience. Thus, with the April Theses, Debord could call for a debate and pre-empt it. His individual expression substituted itself for a group articulation and, under the guise of the 1’IS, became anonymous. This is to say that Debord identified so absolutely with the 1'IS, came to represent it, that what has been called here its 'self-image' would eventually be indistinguishable from his own. Guy Debord, rather than being the leader of an organisation, was, as its foremost contemplative, the author of its main theory, the ideal of that organisation. His authority, then, comes with his being the admixture of his own written idealism and with his status as the ego-ideal for the other 1'IS members. So instead of the ‘unalienated communication’ that they sought, Debord and the 1’IS gave succour to a modality of individuality – the narcissistic idealism of a ‘private consciousness’ – that came to fill the spaces between people with an air of defensiveness, proprietorship and mutual reproach. This enshrining of alienation (repression) within the group, assured by the ever impending practice of exclusions, was also the continual reinforcement of its duplicitous take on organisation and ‘common practice’: if the ‘unacceptable’ could not be made any more ‘precise’ then, Debord, as sovereign, as ego ideal, could exercise a ‘state of exception’ at anytime, against anyone and for anything. Perhaps, then, it is little wonder that individualism within the 1’IS would intensify to such a self-protective and narcissistic degree, that the organisation would slowly come to freeze over with mutual fear and accusation.
Burroughs, Brainstorming and Creativity
Damn Ray - this is great info, and thanks for taking time to post it. Rollo May and "Courage to Create" were my biggest boost to start making art back in the 1970's.
Also the brainstorming thing is immensely important, and I am going to pass it on to my son. He is 28 years old now (!) and potentially a terrific writer who needs some encouragement. (See our collaboration [i]Midas Rat and Me[/I]
I am going to take time to re-read your post in depth - just wanted to respond quickly, because I got excited reading it the first time over! - Jim
Call for RANTS and RAVES
I have written for a couple of issues of ARP!, and would like to encourage others of you ranters and ravers to give it a shot. They have been paying us with coupons for food at the Seward Cafe (which is free anyway if you get there right before closing, when they clean out the day's leftovers). Seeing your stuff in print is maybe enuf reward for some of us.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Art Review and Preview Issue #4 www.artreviewandpreview.org
Rants & Raves
For our Spring issue, we're looking for your Rants and Raves. Everyone's got an itch of some kind or another--something that drives them crazy, sets them off, sets them apart. Like: Why do people talk on their cell phones while ordering coffee--and what does it mean on a sociological level that plenty of people feel comfortable doing it? Or: why aren't the Carlton "artist lofts"actually for artists (it's rumored that the building managers take art off the walls!)--any progressive developer could tell you it's to their benefit to let artists "clean up" a neighborhood before actually developing. And the art scene in Minneapolis: some people would argue that it's "too sprawled out", "not enough centricity," while others would posit the idea that it's more sustainable that way--no more Warehouse District scenarios. Share your pet peeves, or a few of your favorite things--on art, on here, on the world, in general.
We are looking for articles of 250 - 750 words on a wide variety of topics, sometimes--but not necessarily--related to art. Back your ideas up please, this could be considered a call for persuasive essays, or impassioned debates. Are you considered "all talk"? Prove them wrong and write something!
Do you know someone who totally, completely disagrees with you? Agree to disagree in public, and write a pair of highly opinionated and, when it matters, factual, essays. Please let us know what you'd like to write about by the proposal deadline as that will help us balance the issue's content. If you'd like to write and need an idea, contact us!
Proposals due: January 10, 2008
Final Draft due: February 7, 2008
Release Date: March 6, 2008
Submissions, questions, and comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
well done pdf art zine
Man, "Midas Rat" was a pretty cool PDF file. I think it's the first time I've seen the potential of that format so well done. I mean, I'm usually looking at white papers and urban development planing docs in PDF. It's fresh to see how you did that. Well done..... or eh, undone... Wheres part 3?
Midas Rat PDF now online in its entirety
Ray - Thanks for the encouragement with the Midas Rat project.
I finally finished the PDF version, with parts 3 and 4 - its online at www.brightblueearth.com , with a link on the front page.
Now I am getting it in a printed mini-zine format. I'd also like to do a fullsized print version, and maybe even a narrated video.
I also posted on BrightBlueEarth a new 10minute animated video called Joya's Dream, with original music by the brilliant PJ Tracy.
Take a look when you get a chance - Jim