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Steps to make your life more creative
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.”)

• Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.
• We need to be in the open mode when pondering a problem — but! — once we come up with a solution, we must then switch to the closed mode to implement it. Because once we’ve made a decision, we are efficient only if we go through with it decisively, undistracted by doubts about its correctness.
• Cleese goes on to caution against a trap in this duality, one particularly hazardous in politics:
• To be at our most efficient, we need to be able to switch backwards and forward between the two modes. But — here’s the problem — we too often get stuck in the closed mode. Under the pressures which are all too familiar to us, we tend to maintain tunnel vision at times when we really need to step back and contemplate the wider view.
• This is particularly true, for example, of politicians. The main complaint about them from their nonpolitical colleagues is that they’ve become so addicted to the adrenaline that they get from reacting to events on an hour-by-hour basis that they almost completely lose the desire or the ability to ponder problems in the open mode.
• Cleese concludes with a beautiful articulation of the premise and promise of his recipe for creativity:
• 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.
• For a related treat, see Cleese’s reprise of the talk nearly two decades later at the 2009 Creativity World Forum.

(source: Brain Pickings, Maria Popova)

6 comments

Janet Brien said:

What a beautiful image. Love the light and shadow, the leading line, your composition and the fine choice for b/w! Perfect for this awesome article on creativity. Couldn't agree more. And wow, would I love to meet John Cleese, such a fascinating, brilliant, nice man.

Thanks for sharing! :)
8 years ago

Chrissy S said:

This is lovely and resonates with me right now. I lost my way with my art side of life this year. A lovely friend who recognised it sent me a book called "the Artists Way" which I am in the process of working my way through. Much of it is reiterated here....and a very beautiful photo to go with it
8 years ago

Danielle said:

J'ai beaucoup apprécié ce partage et je me suis reconnue à certains moments de ma vie. Un Grand Merci pour la publication !
8 years ago ( translate )

Valfal said:

Very wise words to live by. Mr. Cleese seems to have discovered the key to what keeps politicians from being effective leaders. He has sharp observational gifts!

I love your photo, too! Beautiful composition and perspective; very fitting for this article you wrote :-)
6 years ago

Sami Serola (inactiv… said:

Great article. With scientific research we now have the problem of not giving time to read and think. Earlier writing a dissertation could take even a decade. Today research projects have to be done in very limited time.

And I suppose the same soon become applied to arts as well.
4 years ago

Clickity Click said:

Thanks for referring this Luc. Now will try and let it all sink in. : ) Oh wonderful image to go with the thoughts. :)
3 months ago