Stealing creativity strategies from businesses

Inc. Magazine has an interesting article on developing and maintaining corporate creativity. It’s worth reading and there are a couple of interesting points that I thought applied to individuals as well.

Provide Lots of Free Time to Think

BrightHouse’s 18 staff members get five Your Days, in which they are encouraged to visit a spot conducive to reflection and let their neurons rip. No mandate to solve a particular problem. Just blue-sky thinking — often under actual blue skies. Reiman believes this unstructured cogitation is just as important to a project’s success as time spent hunkered down in client meetings. Or as he puts it: “I think; terefore, I am valuable.”

Do you give yourself time to think? It’s one thing to blame your work or depend on your work for thinking time, but you aren’t going to get it at most jobs. If time to think doesn’t seem to occur naturally, you are going to have to schedule it.

Bring in Outsiders

Many top innovation firms tap the perspectives of outside experts — be they physicists, poets, actors, archaeologists, theologians, or astronauts. At BrightHouse, such distinguished professionals, otherwise known as “luminaries,” are constantly cycling through the office.

Is your creativity insular? Do you look for help when you need it? Do you guess at things instead of asking? Learn to use other people for your own creative purposes. It’s not at all selfish, most people can’t wait for a chance to share what they know and will eagerly supply with everything you need. Find someone with information relevant to your current project and use them!

Do it for Free

Creative folks enjoy applying their talents to noble causes — and, increasingly, their employers keep them happy by providing opportunities to do so. At BrightHouse, employees with great ideas for improving public life receive a $1,000 bonus on the spot.

So many people complain that they aren’t paid for their creativity. Have you looked for a way to benefit others for free? This is a great way to get exposure and increase your skills while improving the world. Don’t wait for a paycheck to do the things you love, find an outlet that appreciates what you have to offer. The money will come eventually.

Read the article here.

Link via Dose of Creativity

Eliminate other people’s imagination

Nick Mamatas, controversial writer and editor, was asked by someone whether or not they had the potential to be a great writer. He posted his answer and it’s a fascinating discussion of good versus great, the value of practice and turning on the pilot light of imagination.

The whole answer is worth reading and debating, but I wanted to point out one particular bit because I think it has a universal truth that applies to all creative work.

The goal of the practice is to negate the negation — to eliminate the use of other people’s imaginations instead of your own. You must negate and negate and negate until there is nothing left but you, your right hand, and that woodchipper. Do you think it is clever and responsible to find “balance” in your life by keeping a day job and writing every other weekend? You should cultivate a loathing for yourself, for such advice, and for the pathetic circumstances of existence — bills and kids and private property, that makes that advice seem so sound. Do you think “real artists” run around from lover to lover, living off the fat of the land and friendly patrons one might meet in midnight cafes? Embrace the reality that you are a hopeless poseur playacting the neuroses of a couple prominent writers and zillion awful pigs from the last century. All that has come before is worthless, except for those few people you realize were using their own imaginations and not the mass imagination, and their work.

As you can see, Mamatas is not out to make any friends. Even if you disagree with him, what he says is worth thinking about. How much of what you do is just you? How much is just everything that came before you projected on to you? What do you need to do to grind away the inessential, unoriginal parts of your creativity?

By the way, I just read Nick’s book Under My Roof and thought it was great. Also, his submission guidelines for Clarkesworld are extremely funny.

Link to answer

Inspiration from the Ark

This story is truly inspirational to me.

You may have read about it in Vanity Fair. In the early 80s, a group of boys in Southern Mississippi decided they were going to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark shot by shot using a video camera, their friends and whatever props and locations they could scrounge together. It took them seven years to complete. Seven years is a long time to work on something as an adult, but to a 10 and 11-year-old, that’s a lifetime.

I was lucky enough to attend a screening hosted by the director a while ago. The quality of the film is as rough as you would imagine a 20-year-old video tape to be. Despite technical flaws, this movie is a powerful testament to what it means to be a creative nerd. If you have ever wondered why people get obsessed with movies or TV shows to the point of distraction, this movie has the answer. Children from divorced families getting together to create their own fantasy world every summer while people made fun of them.

Technically, the movie has every fault you would imagine. But, those faults pale in comparison to how much they got so very very right. The giant boulder is a giant boulder, the fire in the bar scene is a fire in a bar (admittedly, a bar they built in someone’s cellar) and when Indiana goes under a truck while holding onto his whip and is then dragged behind in the dust, you find yourself cheering in excitement that they pulled it off.

One of the great pleasures of the movie is watching them solve problems that don’t occur to the casual viewer. You wonder how they’ll do the boulder, what the ark will look like and how they’ll pull off the chase scene. The real interest is in the tiny moments. For instance, if you are in a small town in Mississippi, where are you going to get a monkey? When the solution appears on-screen, I found myself laughing not so much because it was funny, but because the solution is so clever.

They just used a Beagle mutt named Snickers.

When Marion is trying to get the monkey off of her shoulder, it’s just a dog trying to figure out why a girl is shaking him around. Snickers rides around on the shoulder of “the Arab” with a look of disinterest and whenever he gets put down, he immediately curls up and goes to sleep. The shot of him on the floor after eating bad dates is just him sleeping in an odd position.

The plane at the end of the first scene is replaced with a boat in a swamp. The natives that chase him there are 11-year-old boys in grass skirts. Time after time they just pull it off in an obvious but tremendously clever way.

In the question and answer after the movie, someone actually had the audacity to point out what scenes and shots were missed. For a split second, I thought the audience, all awestruck at the work and creativity on display, was going to collectively hit him in the back of the head. Chris Stromopolis, the co-director and Indiana Jones, shushed the crowd and started to explain. You see, he said, for the first few years, we could only see the movie at the theater. There were no video stores and it wasn’t on TV. They worked from memory and a Marvel Comic adaptation. It wasn’t until 84 or 85 that they actually could compare what they’d filmed to the actual movie. At one point, they went into the theater with a tape recorder taped to their chests in the hopes of being able to get something, ANYTHING, that they could use. The first time, they were caught. The second time, they got a good tape with dialog.

The most touching moment for me was Chris telling us that scene where Marion kisses Indy in the ship’s cabin is his actual first kiss from a girl and it was captured on film. Which makes me think that what started as an attempt to duplicate an action adventure movie turned, as the years passed, into an elaborate plot to get a kiss from a girl.

In the blooper reel there’s a shot of a kid that they set on fire with gasoline rolling around on the floor asking if they got the shot while someone is standing off to the side trying to quickly read the instructions on a fire extinguisher.

When they tried to make a plaster cast of the kid who played the Nazi Toht’s head for the melting scene at the end. You know, the weird-looking torture Nazi whose face melts, well in this version he’s played by a kid who looks like Ernie from My Three Sons only skinnier and nerdier. Turns out they accidentally used construction plaster instead of plain plaster, so when they put it on his head, it started to heat up to about 107 degrees. They had given him a pad of paper to write on and he wrote the word “hot.” Then, they realized that they hadn’t properly soaped his eyes and they were plastered shut. He reached for the pad again and wrote the word “hospital.” They called an ambulance, but the police got there first. The policeman looked at the plaster coated boy, shook his head and said, “What in the hell are you kids doing?”

One store owner called the police and told them that they were filming child pornography.

Chris is now trying to turn all this attention into a career of some kind. He’s been in LA for 14 years with no luck, but they might be the thing that pushes him over the edge. Their story has been sold and is going to be a movie and a documentary. Hopefully, by the grace of Lucas, this will be released on DVD so every nerd in the world can see it.

In the credits, the movie is dedicated to the memory of Snickers. He was hit by a car before the movie was complete. When an audience member asked about Snickers, Chris almost teared up and said, “Good old Snicks.”

It’s like watching someone’s home movies, but the sheer scope and magnitude of what they pulled off makes me feel like I can do anything. The biggest lesson in all of this is that if they had only half-made the movie, it wouldn’t be that interesting. Remember to finish things no matter what!

Just search for Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made and you can watch it on Netflix.

How Not To Display Your Art On The Web

Lines and Colors has a great article on displaying your art on the web. Not only is it full of great advice, it also takes the form of an angry sarcastic rant. (So, it’s funny and useful!) Here’s a bit that points out one of my pet peeves about art sites:

Use tiny, square thumbnails with a nondescript crop from some obscure corner of the artwork. You wouldn’t want someone to miss the fun of playing “Concentration” when trying to remember where a particular image is; and if the thumbnails clearly described the images, visitors might actually go to one they like in the eleven seconds they have to look at your site.

Even better, why bother with thumbnails or preview images when clever little dots, squares or enigmatic shapes are so much more artsy? Everybody already knows how cool your stuff is, they’ll certainly take the trouble to click through all the shapes to find an image. Plus if they come back looking for a particular image, they have the fun of discovering all over again!

Also covered are the benefits of having a long complicated domain name and putting everything in frames. This was written by someone who has looked at a lot of art sites and knows their business.

How Not To Display Your Art On The Web

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