I just watched this excellent Liberatum short film Inspiring Creativity in which various artists talk about what inspires their creativity. It got me thinking about what inspires me to be creative, and I realized that it can be almost anything.
I might say music, but really, music is an art form that encourages me to be creative once I’m already there. I have an idea and am now working on making that idea come to fruition. Music distracts my mind from its busy-ness enough so that I can focus on the one thing, creating.
I might say reading great works, but really what great works do is give me permission to write the way that I write, to turn a phrase, to develop interesting characters, to express my thoughts.
I might say film inspires me, but really, its function is closer to that of music–distraction. Great films and crappy movies (I love ’em all) calm my mind and provide me with a momentary distraction. And like reading a masterpiece, watching a film by an innovative filmmaker gives me permission and encourages me to be innovative.
Sometimes it’s something that’s poorly done that inspires me. I taste a dish and think they should have added nutmeg, and that’s it. The next night I’m busy in my kitchen creating a culinary masterpiece.
And then there is the almighty amorphous muse. I say amorphous because my muse is always running off and comes back looking like someone else. He comes around every now and then, get me all excited about a project, and then leaves before I can finish. But, at least he gets me started. Completion is my job, after all.
So what is it that does actually inspire me? Would pinpointing that thing, that moment make me more creative? Could I then wake up every morning and say Hey, I want to be creative today so I’m going to listen to Moby, watch a Truffaut film, read an essay by Ellison, have a conversation with my muse, and eat some ramps?
Note the sarcasm.
Two of my favorite quotes from the film:
Creativity. All those creative people, you are ruining [pretty much everything]. All of you kooks with your creativity, I would like to ban you to some distant island. –Filmmaker Jonas Mekas
Most of us don’t even know how to ask a question. Most of us do not see that the root of the word question is the word quest. Most of us don’t have a quest in our life. –Richard Saul Wurman, TED Founder, Designer, Architect
There we go. Creativity is about first asking the question, and then you have to go on that quest. It’s about action, discovery, and creating. Talk all you want about creativity, but if you aren’t actually making anything, you’re not being creative. You’re just a pretentious kook that’s ruining my food.
So what are you creating today? What questions are you asking? And what quest will you go on to create something new?