Wisdom from Roald Dahl. Happy Friday.
The Canadian painter Robert Genn writes a terrific, twice-weekly newsletter. While Genn writes primarily about painting, his thoughts apply to any creative pursuit, including writing — and we’ve reposted his letters here several times before. The gem below, which looks at the situations that generate ideas, is reprinted by permission.
Recent research, aimed at finding specific triggers that result in good ideas, better solutions and bouts of creativity, has confirmed my own favourite times when stuff happens. Here are a few:
When we step away: Focusing at your workstation doesn’t always work, particularly if you do too much of it. Leave your cubicle or studio and step into a new environment. Great stuff is ready to grab out there, floating in the ether.
When we’re in transition: Waking up, falling asleep, showering, tubbing, or going to the bathroom are hot times for new ideas. We need to trust the possibilities of fleeting brain waves at these times and take the trouble to knock them down for further study.
When we’re drinking: Moderate drinking gives confidence and gusto. A 2012 study at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that students who drank enough to raise their blood-alcohol level to 0.075 performed better on tests of insight than sober students.
When we’re doing chores: This may be one of the reasons why so many artists prefer to have their studios at home. I absolutely don’t want this sort of information passed around, but I personally find stimulation in washing cars, taking out the garbage, and helping our gardener move bags of manure.
When we’re satisfied: A relatively fulfilled life calms the mind and enriches the ground for idea growth. I’ve tried frustration, anger, disappointment, tiredness and misery, and they all work to a degree, but joyous satisfaction and a sense of élan work best.
When we’re daydreaming: It turns out that daydreaming is one of the most valuable things that creative people do. Even the fantasizing of chicks that bedevils a lot of men apparently hastens bubble-up ideas from the subconscious that have nothing to do with women. What women need to fantasize, I’m not sure.
When we see green: Green surroundings, whether green-painted walls or the green outdoors, suggest new growth, rebirth, fertility, and renewal — just one of the reasons why a walk in the park can be so fruitful. Feeling non-creative in the studio? Squeeze out some green.
PS: “When students were given creativity tests, those whose test-cover pages had a green background gave more creative answers than those whose pages were white, blue, red or grey.” (Sue Shellenbarger, reporting in the Wall Street Journal)
Esoterica: Personal and unique fetishes can be useful as well. For a steady flow of creativity, easel-time foot-massage has been recommended, as has military marching music played loudly. I notice slight rises when I consult or share minor triumphs with Dorothy the Airedale. She is non-confrontational, always eager, never critical, and I know she’s quite fond of me. Sometimes she likes my creativity so much she sleeps on it. In other words, she’s a low-maintenance muse. ‘Scuse me, she just came in, and now she wants out.
Don’t miss the treasure trove of Genn’s letters here.
Eric Maisel, prolific writer and creativity coach extraordinaire, has launched a new creativity resource with his wife, Ann Maisel. This new venture is the World Salon, an interactive resource for creatives around the globe. And I’m thrilled to have the inaugural column in the Coach’s Corner! Opportunities to contribute abound, so don’t miss out. More about the World Salon, from Dr. Maisel’s introduction:
Thinking about writing a mystery? Need to raise money to produce your album? Need help as a beginning costume designer? Want to give more powerful auditions? Looking for inspiration as a textile artist?
You’ve come to the right place!
My name is Eric Maisel and I’ve invited creative and performing artists from around the world to share their experiences and their expertise with you—for free. Our World Salon is a worldwide community of creative individuals from all walks of life who are looking for community, resources, and a place to feel heard and understood. We hope that the World Salon will become that place.
Our features include a library of Ten Tip pdfs that you can download immediately, read, and use. And we’ll be adding more all the time! We have a feature called Worldwide Perspectives where more than a hundred creative and performing artists from around the world share their experiences in “Letter From” columns (for example, “Letter from Los Angeles,” “Letter from London,” and “Letter from Berlin”). We have other features, too, like an artist’s voice feature, links to great articles, a coach’s corner, a philosopher’s corner—please look around!
I hope that you’ll want to contribute to our community. Many of our features are open to you. Look around, see what interests you, and join our worldwide community of contributors!
Please enjoy your visit.
The other morning, I brought the corn husk materials from last night’s dinner out to my compost pile. I perused the pickings around the peas. I popped one pod in my mouth. I’ll let the others linger and grow another day or so. I strolled by my little swiss chard piece of a plot in front of the okra, and was struck with an idea for breakfast. I picked a few leaves thinking of combining them with eggs, and considered what else to add as I reentered the house.
Last week’s storms broke Grandma’s hanging tomato plant. The remaining tomatoes are ripening on our kitchen counter.
I chopped some garlic as I started to scramble the eggs. I gave the swiss chard a few licks with the knife and tossed those in. I took a small tomato from the opposite counter and did the same — a little salt and pepper later, and voila!
Garden-fresh swiss chard and tomato scramble, from garden to plate.
This is why I love to garden. Everything you grow yourself inspires and tastes better, from plant to table in 10 minutes.
Crossposted from musings in mayhem.
My girl set this display on her art table and asked, “Mom can I have some paint?”
And she began to paint…
This also gave Mama a chance to work on some new things…
What’s inspiring you (lately)…?