This is one of those rules on creativity that people talk about a lot. When you are creating something, especially something you are creating with other people, you cannot be precious with your ideas. Some of them will get used, some of them will not get used. You must know this going in otherwise you’ll be setting yourself up for misery.
This rule struck me one time when I watched it happen right in front of me. In 2003, I was lucky enough to be invited to hang out on the set of a Muppet commercial shoot. It was the Dominoes Pizza Super Bowl ads that they were in. For two days I just sat, like a fly on the wall, and watched as the people behind the Muppets worked their magic. As a side note here, my favorite Muppet is Gonzo, so I kept a close eye on what Dave Goelz, Gonzo’s performer, was doing.
During one break I noticed Dave was over near the Puppet Wrangler’s table working on something. He had some items from the Craft Service table, a long puppet rod and some tools and was busily building something. Someone asked what it was and he said he felt lil Gonzo should be doing something in the background of the next shot they were filming, so he was building a stack of food for Gonzo to balance on his finger. The rig would have made it appear like Gonzo was balancing a peanut on his fingertip, then balanced on that, a soda can, and then a bag of chips and so on. It was really a great looking rig and it was built out of actual stuff! He drilled holes in a REAL peanut in order to slide the rod through.
I’d say he spent about a good thirty minutes of his lunch break on this neat little addition to the commercial. When he was done he tried it out and the effect was hilarious, it looked like Gonzo was balancing all this stuff on his finger. Everybody loved it. They tested it out on camera and it looked great. But then, somebody decided that it just wasn’t right for the scene. The Muppets mantra has always been, “Pull Focus” but this gag was pulling a little too much focus. Ultimately, the decision was made not to use it. I guess in a commercial you don’t want to pull too much focus away from the product you’re actually selling.
So, after working so hard on this little piece of puppetry fun, what did Dave Goelz do? He just tossed it aside with a smile and got ready for the next shot. His attitude was one of, “Well, that would have been fun but, oh well, no big deal.” Now, he could have been upset or fought for it or thrown a big-time hollywood star tantrum, but he didn’t. He moved on to the next order of business with a smile.
Seeing this happen really struck me. Something you work hard on, no matter how good of an idea it is, may not make the final project. This happens all the time when creating things with others and it can happen in working on your own stuff as well. A particular exchange of dialogue in your writing may be the best you’ve ever written, but if if doesn’t work with the story, you have to toss it. You can be upset for a moment, but then you have to move on with your creating.
This is a tough one. Usually us artists go from thinking everything we do is crap to everything we do is good. Sometimes, even when you know you have something good, you have to let it go if it’s not working.
Take a lesson from Gonzo: you can’t be precious with your work.
Doodle. Sketch. Draw. Even if you aren’t someone who can draw. For the creative person there is benefit to spending some time letting your pen or pencil roam freely around a piece of paper. Even if you practice a form of creative art that is not a visual medium such as writing.
First of all, just sitting and doodling can get your mind to wander for a bit and open your brain up to let some fresh ideas flow in. Doing mindless tasks is great for sparking creative ideas and doodling is a great mindless activity.
Secondly, it’s good to get into the practice of doodling or sketch for you art. There will be times in your career when you may have to sketch something out to get your creative vision across to someone else. For example, I’m currently working on a puppet project and while the bulk of my work on this project is me writing out scripts, I had to draw a few sketches of my vision of the puppets to give to the puppet builder Russ Walko. Now, I am no artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I was able to doodle my thoughts well enough that I could get the point across to Russ. This is a good skill for all artists.
Finally, doodling is just plain fun. I don’t have any statistics on this, but I’m sure, for many people, they doodled a lot more as kids than they do now in their adult lives. So a return to doodling, a return to doing something a little more kid-like, a little more fun, jump starts our creative minds and that’s never a bad thing.
No need to worry that your doodles aren’t good enough to hang in an art museum or graces the pages of the Sunday comics section of the newspaper. Just doodle. Experiment. You may stumble on a new creative act that will inspire your other work. So spend a few minutes this week just doodling.
Do you doodle? If so, has it helped your creative work in any way? Let us know in the comments below! Have a creative week!
More and more, recently, I’ve been hearing the phrase, ‘Fake it till you make it.’ It’s popped up in discussions and on the radio in news stories and there’s a very famous TED Talk by Amy Cuddy that explores the concept of ‘faking it’ until you ‘make it’ in terms of body language and success. (It’s a good watch, and I’ve linked to it at the bottom.) I have heard it so much, I thought it might make a good topic for a Creative Mondays post.
I agree that faking it until you make it is a good practice, with a few exceptions. You never want to flat out lie to people, especially people who may give you a job. This can come back to bite you in the hinder so bad, it’ll make your head spin. But, I do feel it’s okay to, shall we say, stretch the truth a bit, if you are confident that you can handle the end result and back up your promises.
I have a prime example of what I’m talking about in something that happened my freshmen year of college. Now, while freshmen were told that they should audition for everything that came along, they were told they shouldn’t expect to get in plays their freshmen year. Well, in my first semester of my freshmen year, I landed the bit part of Jaques DuBois in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. If you have read the play you know that the character comes in at the very last minute of the play and, sort of, ties up all the loose ends. It was a tiny part, but I felt totally badass because I was a freshmen who had landed a role in a University Players production. When the second semester rolled around, I was feeling cocky and I decided that I was going to get a bigger part in a play.
Auditions for YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU came up and after reading the play I started to think of who I could play in the play. I decided I was going to go out for the role of Ed. If you are unfamiliar with the play, it is about an eccentric family full of ‘nutballs’ who all have their weird hobbies. One of Ed’s main hobbies is playing the xylophone. On the day of the audition, as I was filling out the audition sheet, there was the question: Can you play the xylophone?. Now, I did not know how to play the xylophone. No idea whatsoever. But I was a drummer all four years of high school and I had been around xylophones enough to know a little bit about them. So I just wrote down yes on the audition sheet.
Now, let me say, this could have backfired HUGE on me. I could have walked into the room and there could have been a xylophone sitting in there and they could have asked me to play.
Luckily, that did not happen. I went in, did my monologue and spoke to the director for a bit and just as I was leaving he asked, “You can play the xylophone?” I said, confidently, “Yes.” He nodded, said okay, and thanked me for coming in. A few days later when the cast list was posted, I had landed the role of Ed. Of course, this meant that I now had to learn how to play xylophone, which I was able to do, at least well enough for the play and no one was ever the wiser.
If you can confidently ‘fake it, until you make it’ I see no problem in doing it. I certainly wouldn’t tell someone I could fly a plane if I couldn’t, but I was confident I could pull of playing xylophone enough for this play, so I saw no problem in stretching the truth a bit. ‘Faking’ it, if you will. It got me the part.
So, it is quite possible to ‘fake it until you make it’ in our creative lives. Just make sure you can confidently learn to play the xylophone if you say you can.
Has there ever been a moment in your creative career where you had to ‘fake it?” Let us know in the comments below! Have a great week!
Happy Friday! Welcome to another edition of What Others Are Creating where I look at some of the creative projects that I’ve seen various artists working on this week. My hope is to share them now with you and perhaps you’ll find one or two to check out further and possibly support.
Decoder Ring Theatre – http://decoderringtheatre.com – As someone who has been podcasting in one form or another since 2004, I’m often ask which podcasts I listen to. Decoder Ring Theatre is one of the best and one of the longest running audio drama podcasts on the web. It’s got action, adventure and laughs for folks of just about any age. And not only is the content amazing, their production schedule is something to aspire too. I will always mention Decoder Ring Theatre and the Adventures of The Red Panda as one of my favorite podcasts to listen to. I’ve been subscribed since the day I found it! Check them out.
The Ukulady – http://www.theukulady.com – The ukelele has become a ubiquitous instrument. Everyone everywhere is now playing the damn thing. Once relegated to hawaain shows, the Hipster wave has grabbed hold of the mighty ukelele and now it’s a badge of coolness to play the ukelele. Well, long before this current wave of coolness, The Ukulady was making the ukelel cool by singing her offbeat tunes while strumming the instrument. I’ve known The Ukulady for some years as we’ve travelled in the same circles and have always been impressed she’s built a very successful children’s act around The Ukulady. CLICK HERE to watch a fun medley of ’80s Television Theme Songs performed live in front of a raucous audience. Just three minutes of nothing fun.
Jody Whitesides – http://jodywhitesides.com/blog/ – Jody is a guy I met around 1998 while doing open mics in Southern California. He has been a friend ever since. If you’ve followed any of the projects I’ve worked on over the years, you have, no doubt, heard his name or heard his music. He produced and played bass and guitar on the Throwing Toasters album CHROME, he did all the music for The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd and his song Christmas Brought Me You is the theme for my yearly Advent Calendar. Jody is in the process of working on a new album of songs and he’s blogging regularly over at his website. Go read through some of his recent posts and check out a few of his songs. I’m sure you’ll be rocking out to one or two of them. Plus his blogs are a good read about pop culture and art creation from a musician’s point of view.
Finally this week I want to leave you with a short video clip. It’s a segment from Penn’s Sunday School, a weekly podcast hosted by Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller. It starts with Drew Carey talking about some advice he was given a long time ago and I think it’s something interesting to think about in terms of creativity. I’ll let you watch it and see for yourself. This is Penn Jillette here, so some of the words are NSFW. Give it a listen and let me know what you think about Being Great or Being Anonymous when you’re just starting out something.
That’s if for another week. If you have a project you would like me to check out, please feel free to leave a link to it in the comments below. Always interested in seeing what people are coming up with. Have a great weekend and I will see you back here on Monday morning for another Creative Mondays!