I have written before about creativity and I’ve thought and read about it a bit recently. There are 2 main things that I have recently discovered: First, the idea that quantity leads to quality. I read this article on Austin Kleon’s blog (which I think I found via Matt Ragland‘s newsletter. This idea is as simple as it is evident, the more you practice, the better you get. But as trivial as it sounds, it is also non-trivial at the same time. It becomes non-trivial when perfectionism comes into play, when you overthink things and stop doing things, when you become blocked. This is illustrated nicely by the story of the ceramics teacher (mentioned in Austin Kleon’s blog post) who divides a group of students into two, one which will be graded by quantity and one which will be graded by quality. While the latter group tries too hard to produce their best work and therefore experiments too little, the quantity-based group experiments a lot and tries out a lot of things and produces ultimately the better work. It is this playful art of experimenting that makes a good artist/creator.
The second source of inspiration for me was this video on overcoming art block by Valerie Lin. She talks about her ways, her habits basically, that help her to keep experimenting and trying out new things, to overcome artist’s block. It starts by getting inspired by following the things that spark your interest or curiosity. You continue by copying other people’s work and therefore by practicing to use your tools and digest the inspiring material. Ultimately, your brain will, often by some obscure subconscious process, produce some unique combination of the material you have digested before. And that’s what makes your work unique. Once the basic idea has been unearthed, you may refine it again as you wish.
A similar process applies also to doing research, as was explained in the movie “The World of Thinking” by Nima Arkani-Hamed, about which I wrote recently.