The “trick” to creativity

The trick to creativity, if there is a single useful thing to say about it, is to identify your own peculiar talent and then to settle down to work with it for a good long time. Everyone has an aptitude for something. The trick is to recognize it, to honor it, to work with it. This is where creativity starts.

 Denise Shekerjian

Paint Your Own Bullseye

Great interview with Brian Eno on the Guardian today. Lots of interesting stuff, but I just want to pull two quotes. The first is a good reminder about succeeding on your own terms.

Instead of shooting arrows at someone else’s target, which I’ve never been very good at, I make my own target around wherever my arrow happens to have landed. You shoot your arrow and then you paint your bullseye around it, and therefore you have hit the target dead centre.

The second quote is about the death of the recording industry, but it’s really about much more than that.

I think records were just a little bubble through time and those who made a living from them for a while were lucky. There is no reason why anyone should have made so much money from selling records except that everything was right for this period of time. I always knew it would run out sooner or later. It couldn’t last, and now it’s running out. I don’t particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you’d be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate – history’s moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber. Eventually, something else will replace it.

Be sure and check out the quote about Frank Zappa as well.

Read the rest here



I wanted to take a moment to reintroduce myself. My name is David Wahl and I work for amazing stuff maker and seller Archie McPhee. I have recently been focussing my attention on establishing a new literary magazine/blog Monkey Goggles. I have written lots of articles for it. The most popular was my experience with Mick Jagger when I worked at a toy store.

I have a Tumblr blog I use to track interesting images, ideas and links. If you don’t know Tumblr, it’s a great micro-blogging service that is very simple to use.

I’d love for you to introduce yourself in comments and if you have any web presence, please link to it!


That’s all you do – Unimpressive Creativity

I was talking to a reporter today about some of the products we make at my work. I named Bacon Mints and the Yodelling Pickle as examples of popular items.

She then said, rather dismissively, “So, all you guys do is find things that have never been put together before and join them up, right? Pick two things and figure out how they go together.”

And, a bit insulted to have my work so belittled, I thought to myself, that’s what all creativity is at its most basic level. Don’t we all strive to find new connections between things in an attempt to come up with something new?

So yes, like every artist, inventor and philosopher that has ever lived, that’s all we do.

In another sense, I think maybe this is a useful way of looking at it. It’s not hard, you can do it yourself. Just pick two things and find the connection between them. There is no mystery, difficulty or speed bumps, it really is that simple. All the books that have been written are pretty much making a big deal out of nothing.

All of us creative people, that’s all we do.

Dean Kamen

Dean Kamen is one of the most brilliant inventors and innovators of our age. He’s probably best known for the Segway transportation system. His company, DEKA, is responsible for lots of innovative products and ideas, most recently the “Luke Arm“, a prosthetic arm created to replace limbs lost by soldiers in war. (He also has an awesomely eccentric house on a private island. If his focus wasn’t helping humanity, you’d almost think he was a James Bond villain.) I found a few interesting quotes in articles posted on the web.

From MakeZine and other sources that have since disappeared from the web.

You have been likened to a modern-day Thomas Edison or Henry Ford. What inspires you to create?

Life is really, really short. There was an infinite past before I was here–some would argue it was 20 billion years or so, but I am not so sure. Suffice it to say that there was a very long time before I was here, and there will be a very long time after I am gone. My life looks like a tiny dot on that continuum. This perspective gives me a sense of urgency. With that sense of urgency, I get up every day and think that I do not want to waste any time. And if you don’t want to waste time, you look at all the problems you can work on and say, “I only want to work on the big problems. I am only going to work on the ones that matter.” If you are not working on important things, you are wasting time.

Does public education and higher education actually stifle creativity and innovation?

I think that most of the people who succeed in some extraordinary way, and most of the people who fail in some extraordinary way, tend to be people who did really well or really poorly in school. I think that school systems are really good at telling people how to do “okay” in the world. That is what their curriculum is about. That is what their institutional capability is about. That is what the people who run them are about. This is not to say that there isn’t a world full of hugely talented teachers working hard every day to make a difference and change kids’ lives. It is simply to say that the bureaucracy of the educational system limits the ability of educators to address the fringes. So if somebody was a good “B” student in school, you can be pretty sure that he or she is a good, average person. If a person gets A pluses in everything, or F minuses in everything, you can be pretty sure that he or she is an unusual person. Unusual people wrap around the ends of the bell curve. The system does not deal well with them. And I am not sure that the A+ person and the F- person are particularly different. It does not surprise me that when you look at people later in life, the people who got A pluses and F minuses end up doing substantially differently than the average people who are doing well in a system designed to accommodate the center of the bell curve.

On how to manage innovation:

We not only don’t punish mistakes or failures, we celebrate them as long as we get through them quickly and efficiently. You learn from failures, and you move on. I think people would much rather take a risk and focus on what can be done as opposed to protecting themselves against failure.

Each member of the team needs to recognize that the definition of success is not equivalent to a lack of failure. We work hard at doing something, and if we succeed, we will have raised the bar to create a better solution than anyone else.

On how to manage a group where some people have better ideas

We attempt to treat everyone fairly, but treating people fairly is not the same as treating them equally. People are not equal. And I think people don’t want to be equal for many reasons. Most people want to be individuals; they want to excel at something. And the definition of excelling means, “I’m going to prove just how unequal I am.” I don’t think there’s a problem with recognizing that different people have different strengths – not better, not worse, just different.

Why change the world? To me that’s what life is about. If you don’t do that, you might as well hibernate and sleep. If everyone thinks what you do is “normal” . . . it probably is. Why do that? Do something else!

Short Term Heroes

Have you noticed how hard it is to have heroes these days?

It seems like any person you pick to be a hero has a book written about them the following day that reveals a huge list of faults. You know, because we’re all human, even our heroes. Martin Luther King is accused of marital infidelity. John Lennon treated his first wife terribly. Is there anyone left without some black mark on their record?

It’s important to have people to model your life and art after. But, because of shifting standards of acceptable behavior and a media that focuses on digging out dirt, it’s almost impossible to find anyone completely worthy.  Some people go the other direction and get backed into defending their heroes terrible behavior because they admire another part of them. Enough!

Here’s a solution that I’m borrowing from the Subgeniuses. They have a concept called short term personal saviors.

The idea is to allow yourself to look at someone as a personal hero for as long as you need them and then dismiss them. This acknowledges that people can do worthwhile things while still be humans. No one can hold your heroes against against you. It also lets you pick frivolous heroes that might just help you get through a single day or project.

Also, you admire your short-term hero for only one personality trait or action. You can have a hero that you admire just for the way they wrote novels without looking to model their failed marriages and death from alcoholism.

Don’t spend any energy defending your short-term heroes, it’s not worth it. No matter who you pick, you’ll find someone who will tell you why they aren’t worthy.

Pick your hero, use him/her up and move on to the next one. Use the good, dismiss the bad. Think of the advantage you’ll have over people who spend their whole lives looking for a perfect person to have as a hero.

Big is Funny, Small is Cute

worlds-smallest-underpants (3)
There is a rule in the novelty industry that you can take an established product and get an entirely new product just by modifying its size to either comically large or super tiny.

The rule says:

Big is funny. Small is cute.

It seems to me that this rule is a good possible initial way to approach any idea that you have. Would it be better bigger or smaller? If you have an established idea, do you get anything interesting by scaling it up or down? It’s also a great way to revitalize an idea that has gone stale.

Of course, I work for the company that produces the World’s Largest Underpants and the World’s Smallest Underpants, so you can see where this rule has taken us.

How Can I Make This More Fun

Sorry for the spotty updates, I’m on vacation this week visiting family.

While on a long plane ride, I thought of a great question to ask to spur creativity. How can I make this more fun? Helper monkeys instead of stewardesses? A game show of some kind with prizes? The stewardesses getting together and giving a trophy at the end of the flight to the best passenger? Maybe if the seats were far enough apart that you didn’t actually have to rub up against the person next to you. That would have improved my fun!

Now, you might not be able to actually do the thing necessary to make a situation more fun, but it’s great to recognize that the possibility for fun exists.

One situation that stumped me, how could airport security be more fun?

Becoming Creative: 6 Easy Steps Toward Becoming Creative

51caf4ff8f7d2c077d5f4809e8496690 First, I’ll state the obvious. Everyone is creative. There is no person on this Earth that is incapable of coming up with a new idea. However, our entire educational system and most of our culture is set up to squash creativity out of you. Don’t try to learn how to be creative, just remember how to be creative.

When we were kids, we were able to make connections and come up with ideas that are inaccesible to adults. How do we unlearn the bad habits that cut off that part of our brain? Here are 6 simple tips that will push you toward becoming the passionate, creative person you were born to be.

1. Lower your anxiety level. Fear, insecurity and stress are all creativity killers. Do you have some issue or worry in your life that you could easily solve? It doesn’t have to be a big issue, take care of little things. Make sure your car never gets below a quarter tank of gas so the empty light never comes on. Avoid caffeine or other stimulants. Breathe deeply. Meditate. Take care of little problems before they become big problems. The less anxiety you have, the more you’ll be able to focus on being creative.

2. Ask more and better questions. Asking questions is the keystone of creative thought. The only way to get something new is to question the old. Every time you ask a question you force yourself to consider other perspectives and question your own preconceptions. Don’t rely on other people’s answers, figure it out for yourself. Here are some questions to get you started: How can I make this better? Why do we do it this way? Why am I the greatest human being ever to exist?

3. Try new things. Do something that you have never done before. This can be as extreme as finding a new job or as simple as trying Indonesian food. Read a book on a topic you know nothing about. Strike up a conversation with a stranger and ask him/her about his/her past. Trying new things will expand your references and perspective. Finding new ways of looking at the world increases the value of what you already know by letting you find new uses for it.

4. Figure out what you love doing and what makes you happy. This should be an easy task, but some people can’t list more than two or three things. Shouldn’t you be able to fill up a full sheet of paper, both sides, with things that make you happy? If you can only come up with a few, focus on finding more. Your creativity follows your passion and happiness. Artistic expression is its own benefit. It’s the rare artist that makes a living from his art, so passion and happiness are the only two real reasons to create.

5. Forget about your lame excuses. Really, stop with the excuses. They are all lame. There are many people that have it worse than you do that manage to do incredible things.

6. Actually do something. This is the step that completes the transformation of the old you into a creative person. Thinking about doing something doesn’t make you creative. Talking about doing something won’t do it. The only way to become a creative person is to actually create something. This is the only step that matters. Pick up that pencil and draw! Write! Dance! Carve a robot from a bar of soap! It doesn’t matter! DO IT NOW!

More Free Movie and Television Scripts

SteveDaily Script features a different movie or television script every day. I found some scripts here that I haven’t found on other sites and I like the format of a featured script of the day.

The television script section features a lot of pilots. It also has two episodes of the American version of The Office which I found extremely interesting reading. Just from a plotting standpoint, the subtle intertwining of stories is amazing when you dissect it. If you like a script, download it, it might not be there the next time you visit.

Daily Script

%d bloggers like this: