(Video link here.) This video of artist and musician Brian Eno is full of interesting ideas about the creative process. The best, to us, is right up front in the first 1:44 minutes:
I think one of the things art offers you is the chance to surrender, the chance to not be in control any longer. Now if you think about it, most of the encouragement is to take control. What we like doing —and that’s the reason we enjoy sex, drugs, art and religion— what we like doing is surrendering. They’re really all ways of losing ME. They’re ways of losing yourself.
…The biggest mistake is to wait for inspiration. It won’t come looking for you. It’s not so much creating something. It’s noticing when something is starting to happen. Noticing it and then building on it and saying OK. That’s new. That hasn’t happened before. What does it mean? Where can I go with it?
‘Imagine one day the hateful world around you collapses. And it is your attitude, words, and actions that put an end to it.’
via the great Ai Weiwei’s Instagram
Nearly 100 feet below Second Avenue in Manhattan, workers have been blasting into bedrock to build a new subway line in New York City, slogging through mud and muck daily. Yesterday, when a worker lost his footing, a frigid mud akin to quicksand began to swallow him up, creating an extraordinary rescue challenge and daring improvisations by the Fire Department. In the end, it would take an amalgam of improvised solutions: ropes attached to mechanical advantages, a backhoe, a manual griphoist machine and scores of firefighters crouched in the slop digging out the man by hand to finally release him from earth’s grip. The New York Times’ report headlined To Save a Life, a Tug of War With the Earth is riveting. Here’s an excerpt:
“It was a hell hole,” said Lt. Rafael Goyenechea, a paramedic who quickly reached the worker and stayed by his side for more than four hours. “I was definitely worried throughout about possible drowning.”…
Three firefighters suffered injuries during the rescue operation, including one who was hurt after getting stuck in the same mud that held the worker hostage.
….Battalion Chief Donald F. Hayde, who directed the rescue for the Fire Department, said he had never faced a more daunting rescue.
“It was the most difficult technical rescue I have seen,” he said, noting that around 150 emergency workers were called the scene.
In the end, both medical workers and firefighters had to improvise a solution for a problem none of them had ever encountered — mud so thick and viscous that it simply could not be cleared away.
“We basically had to try every different technique we have been taught,” Chief Hayde said. read more…
(Video link here will take you to exactly the right point.) We love Fred Rogers’ —the famed Mister Rogers’ — perfect, illuminating acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 24th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards.
Rogers presents a simple 10-second practice that will shift your view, and provide you with a tool you can carry around throughout the day. (It starts at 1:27 seconds, or click the video link to go right there.) read more…
Over the past several months, Pixar’s former story artist Emma Coates‘ 22 Rules of Good Storytelling has been flying around the web. Although we find it to be excellent advice for writers, we found annotating it made it even better: a list of fine life principles for any creative soul. Our favorite:
No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
Here’s our annoted list made simply by substituting words specific-to-writing with more general ones.
You admire a
characterperson for trying more than for their successes.
Simplify. Focus. Combine
characterselements. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
is your characterare you good at, comfortable with? Throw yourself the polar opposite at them. Challenge themyourself. How do theyyou deal? read more…
Cara de Silva sent alerted us to Smithsonian’s wonderful Jane Goodall Reveals Her Lifelong Fascination With…Plants?. Here is a particularly illuminating chunk, about a tree (which has come to be one of the most commented on subjects by our readers). If you don’t have time to read it all at once, it’s worth bookmarking:
Just over ten years after 9/11, on a cool, sunny April morning in 2012, I went to meet a Callery pear tree named Survivor. She had been placed in a planter near Building 5 of the World Trade Center in the 1970s and each year her delicate white blossoms had brought a touch of spring into a world of concrete. In 2001, after the 9/11 attack, this tree, like all the other trees that had been planted there, disappeared beneath the fallen towers.
But amazingly, in October, a cleanup worker found her, smashed and pinned between blocks of concrete. She was decapitated and the eight remaining feet of trunk were charred black; the roots were broken; and there was only one living branch. (see far right of photo, below). read more…
(Video link here.) This tiny gem of a film comprised a curious and moving Op-Ed in a recent New York Times by filmmaker Anthony Sherin. The story of how Sherin came to make it, as well as the story documented in the film are pure improvisation: responding to the moment, not knowing what the endpoint would be.
Making this film was pure serendipity. After a January snowstorm in New York City, I decided to do some work on another film, in my home in Washington Heights. But as I approached my desk, I thought I heard a piano plinking. I looked out the window and saw a piano on the curb below. I was mesmerized by the pattern that emerged. Passers-by would slow, stop and play. Some played well. All day long they collected and dispersed, and into the night they measured, shoved and deliberated the piano’s fate. (If it stayed on the sidewalk, the city could have issued a fine.) I was riveted. Pianos have histories. No one who stopped seemed eager to leave it behind. Their thoughts were obvious: Can we take it? Who abandons a piano? Is it worth anything? read more…
(Video link here.) In a recent post at the Houdini File, David Saltman rounded up a huge trove of formal public challenges to magician/escape artist extraordinaire Harry Houdini, inviting him to escape from all manner of restraints, one more complex and seemingly-impossible than the next. According to Saltman, Houdini accepted every single challenge issued:
“every challenge a new opportunity and a path to glory, he always said ‘Yes.‘ He never backed down – he took on all comers.”
Saltman’s rigorous research has taught us that Houdini, who has long been seen as a kind of caricature, was an immensely disciplined man, who adhered to a fierce set of personal principles and practices designed to help him master his craft, and the undermining weakness that plagues most people: fear. Each challenge issued forced him to solve a whole new set of problems, to use his talents and knowledge in new ways, and almost always, to improvise. We love his principle of viewing every challenge as an opportunity. He spent his life cultivating that mindset.
We are knocked out by this variation of the beautiful sleight-of-hand Houdini would do for impromptu requests to read more…
(Video link here.) This slightly rough, illuminating 4-minute TED talk is by Philip Henson, an artist who developed permanent nerve damage that made it impossible for him to make the fine drawings he loved; his hand shaked so much he could only draw squiggly lines. When his neurologist asked “Well, why don’t you just embrace the shake?” Henson decided to try it, and began experimenting with different methods of making art that didn’t rely on being in control.
I went from having a single aproach to art to an approach to creativity that has competely changed my artistic horizon…I realized embracing a limitation can drive creativity.
I wondered if you became more creative by looking for limitations.
Gradually the embracing of limitations led Henson to explore the idea of destruction. read more…
(Video link here.) Bradford Evans at Sidesplitter collected wildman-wiseman-truthteller-comedian Louis C.K’s best bits of wisdom from shows, interviews, and appearances. (His ‘everything is so amazing, but nobody is happy’ video on Conan is still the bomb.) Here are our favorites:
It seems like the better it gets, the more miserable people become. There’s never a technological advancement where people think, “Wow, we can finally do this!” … And I think a lot of it has to do with advertising. Americans have it constantly drilled into our heads, every fucking day, that we deserve everything to be perfect all the time. read more…
From our friends at A+B See:
In a review of Leonardo and the Last Supper in the January 14, 2013 issue of The New Yorker. we learn that in his time, Da Vinci had a reputation for being a “dilatory and even unreliable worker whose career was strewn with abandoned projects.” According to author, Ross King, he was as hard on himself as we can be, moaning to his diary, “Tell me if I ever did a thing.” When the commission for the Last Supper came in, Da Vinci was juggling work on a giant bronze horse (never finished), various flying machines, and a joke book. For a genius, he was, it appears, quite human.
This from the man who painted the Mona Lisa and defined the term “Renaissance Man”!
We want to send this to all the very brilliant, worthy, endlessly-creative people we know who doubt and judge themselves mercilessly. We wonder if self-doubt is a necessary driver of the creative. Is it possible to make without losing faith, vision, heart in the midst?
What’s your view?
Related posts: lines ballet’s alonso king: waking up our internal teacher
‘what every girl/person needs’ via miranda july
’8 secrets of success’ in 3:33 minutes
junot diaz on having a slow ‘creative metabolism’
(Video link here.) We were knocked out by this must-watch-all-of-it TED talk by Anne Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, where she studies how nonverbal behavior and snap judgments affect people from the classroom to the boardroom.
The gist: everyone we meet is influenced by our nonverbals, our thoughts and our feelings and our body language and physiology; as we ourselves are. The talk is full of evidence that “power posing” – acting as “as if” — is not about being fake, but about practicing and accepting a new way of viewing yourself, that can become yourself. The most powerful example is Cuddy’s own extraordinary story of how she put it into action, starting at 15.40.
Though watching the whole talk is essential, the transcript itself is full of useful nuggets: read more…
Perfect question, found on Fluxus’ fffound tumbler.
(So….what are you going to do this weekend?)
We were knocked out by this fragment of an interview with Tammy Duckworth in the Sunday New York Time’s Magazine. She’s the United States Representative for Illinois’s 8th congressional district who lost both legs while a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in the Iraq War:
Question: When you wake up do you feel a sense of loss when you realize what happened to your legs?
Of course. But I have a different perspective for what my legs are now. Now they’re just tools, you know? If I still had my legs, I would be in line for a battalion command, and instead I’m flying a desk.
We were mulling Duckworth’s ability to shift her view in the face of daunting obstacles and find a way around them – to be SO resilient – when, as often happens, we found a similar idea resonating in our Inbox. A reader sent us this astonishing BBCvideo of Jessica Cox, who, born without arms, lives fully and richly —even flying a plane— using her feet as hands.
Both Duckworth and Cox figured out how to fly, despite all obstacles. read more…