My good friend, Milo McLaughlin recently started a new blog concerning creativity entitled The Clear Minded Creative. It’s an interesting and valuable site for all of us with creative urges and can be found here. Whilst reading it I began thinking of my own creative efforts and more specifically when I feel most creative and have the seeds of new ideas. Over the years it has often been the case that when travelling or waiting to travel, I seem to have a clearer mind and as a result, one which is more susceptible to new ideas. No doubt this is down to the fact that whilst in transit, the pressures of time constraints go slightly out of the window leaving the mind to wander more at will. That’s my theory anyway and the reason that whenever I’m at an airport, on a plane or a train, I always, as admittedly I do at most times, have a pen and paper on my person ready for any creative ideas to be written down. I get a similar feeling during the week between Christmas and New Year when days of the week are far less observed and we seem less constrained by the normal order of the working week. I wonder if others have encountered this? I still don’t get too many ideas at bus stops though, just an annoyance that the queue that has waited patiently for ten minutes breaks in to a free for all the minute the bus arrives regardless of the age or mobility of certain passengers intending to travel.
I believe most people are creative but that a sizeable majority have no idea how these creative inclinations can be manifested. Is it through music, scriptwriting, prose, painting or performance dance? The list is as long as it is varied. Some may find out for themselves by a process of trial and error, others through fortuitousness or serendipity. Some sadly may never reach a satisfactory conclusion.
There is an undeniable human tendency of thinking it a waste of time to attempt anything creative after a certain age. Undoubtedly it helps to start young especially if you are say, a musician. Many regret not learning the piano or guitar to the degree that you could at least become a handy session musician for the stars whilst having time to record your own solo album on the side for personal gratification. For those who do start creating at a younger age, especially those who start and play in bands as I did, there is often a mass of confidence at the beginning of the journey whereby you are in full belief that your fledgling efforts will quickly catapult you in to the big time. I imagine there are few bands who didn’t think their very first demo was going to put them firmly in the spotlight only to listen to it again 2 weeks later and have an inkling that it may in fact not be the best thing since the last next big thing. There’s something about hearing songs you have written after they’ve been recorded in a professional studio for the very first time that can shadow in the writers mind at least, the limitations of the song writing craft they possess. Having said that, I suppose good songwriters’ talents will always shine through and that is of course what separates them from the rest.
There are many reasons why American Splendor is my favourite film of the last decade, one of them being how it deals with themes of creativity and the frustrations of wanting to do something in an artistic realm but not knowing clearly what that could be. I wrote about it last year in relation to the life and work of Harvey Pekar and it can be read here. I’ve always had ideas but it’s sometimes difficult to pin them down as they’re not all in the same genre. I also find it slightly amusing that I’m viewed in different ways. To some I’m a presenter, to some I’m a writer and to others a comedian or actor. I’m happy to be viewed in such ways as it can pay dividends to be seen as a polymath. Conversely, would it be better to be known as one thing in particular and then be the ‘go to guy’ for something specific or would it narrow down the chance and number of future artistic opportunities in other fields? All I can say with certainty is that I’m definitely the guy walking down the street with earphones on, listening to music and carrying a book, a pen and a pad in his satchel. There could also be an umbrella in there if the sky is looking naughty.
Aside from professional work, I have always been proactive in setting up and accomplishing my own creative challenges. For some, starting a creative journey is the hardest part but the more one does and the more adept one becomes, the middle and end can be just as fraught. Take making a short film. You may have a script but how do you go about filming it? Do you try and get funding or call in favours with those who have equipment and know-how. You re-write the script, check actor availability, hire the actors, choose locations, choose new locations, make contingency plans for weather problems, eventually film it, get an editor, edit your rushes, re-edit your rushes, colour grade the final edit, make copies, get info on film festivals, submit to film festivals, make sure you have enough money to cover submission costs, actually, make sure you have enough money to cover costs for everything – film stock, parking permits, food, props and several other things besides. The point is, I believe the more challenges that one is faced with the more can be met and can easily lead to you surprising yourself at how much you can do.
Whilst my own independent creative exploits have been undertaken with no real chance of financial reward, they have been artistically rewarding and precious learning experiences. Take the short film Timber! that I shot last year. I can now say that I have directed professional actors and crew as a result. Was it enjoyable? Yes. Was it stressful? At times but not overly so. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Did I think the film in question would be in with a chance of winning awards at some film festivals? Yes. Has it? Not yet. Was I pissed off about that? Yes for about half an hour but not as much as some of the crew who thought it deserved to. I think I have just become a little bit more pragmatic and thick skinned. One look at the films which lost out to certain Oscar winners over the years gives one some form of solace regardless of the different ball park I’m operating in.
So there it is, by reading Milo’s excellent new blog I have in turn produced a blog entry of my own concerning creativity. It will hopefully be insightful to some but regardless, if you are of a creative disposition, The Clear Minded Creative is well worth the visit.