Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The importance of play in the creative process

Not sure if you had a chance to watch the John Cleese video I posted yesterday, but I listened to it on my way to my writing session today and it reiterated several important things to me that I've always taken for granted in my creative process.

Cleese talks about the five things we need in order to allow ourselves to become creative. 

They are:

1. Space
2. Time
3. Time
4. Confidence
5. Humor 

Yes, time in in there twice, and if you watch the vid you'll understand why.

But the important thing I really take away from it is the importance of play. Playfulness. The concept of being in an incredibly open mode that allows your mind to go into areas it may not originally have had the ability to do because it was in a "closed" mode. When we play, in whatever form that takes, we allow our minds to switch into a mode that allows it to be inherently creative. When we try to pressure ourselves to create results, our minds changed to a closed mode and we come up against "block".

Cleese tells a story about a screenwriter who worked with Hitchcock for many years, and that when they were stuck, Hitchcock would tell a seemingly unrelated story. It's would infuriate the writer, but then he learned why the great master did it. When we push our minds too hard against a problem, we don't allow our inherently creative self to solve the problem. There is almost something that the unconscious mind does to solve problem without us having to think about it. He talks about losing a script he'd written for a sketch. He recreated the script from memory and then found the original. He compared this new draft to the first one, and found that the second was much better. Why was this, he asked. He came to the conclusion that his unconscious mind had been working to make it better without him consciously thinking about it. 

I've never done a page one rewrite, but am in the process right now and it's a really interesting process. Although I am referring to the first draft during this, it is interesting how all the work I'd done in draft one is improving so much, despite not having thought about it. 

Anyway, addressing these five points above. 

1. Space. We need space to be creative. So I send three days a week with my writing partner, or on my lunch breaks from work, where I shut my self off from distractions and allow this to happens. 
2. Time. Not just a space, but that space for a time. 10-6 normally does it for me.
3. Time. Allowing oneself time to solve a problem creatively. If I hit an obstacle, sleeping in it helps. I don't have to solve hat problem right there and then.
4. Confidence. Working with a partner I trust, who doesn't undermine my ideas really helps. There are no wrong ideas in the creative process, and having the confidence to explore ideas is essential.
5. Humor. Even when dealing with serious situations, the ability to have humor allows us to thinks about things in an open way. Cleese talks about the difference between seriousness and solemnity. Solemnity serves no purpose.

Giving ourselves these five things can help in whatever creative endeavour we find ourselves in.

Finally, I want to talk about something seemingly unrelated.

I play a very nerdy board game called Warhammer 40,000. Basically, I spend a good chunk of time every month painting little plastic figurines and then playing a tabletop wargame with them a little bit like Risk.

When I sit down to paint, often for a few hours, I allow time and space for my mind to go off and wander. I often have some of my best ideas while part of my mind is involved in the complicated art of painting models around 28mm high. I'm letting my mind go into the open mode. 

When I play a game, I get into the cinematic aspect of giant fight scene being played out before me and my mind naturally goes into the kind of stories I like writing. 

Cool huh?

So this is how I play and it works very well. 

Anyway, I'd urge you to watch this vid, and see ways in which you can utilize these aspects in your creative work. Screenwriter or businessman, I think we could all do with being a little bit more creative. 

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