John Cleese on Creativity

I was struck by John Cleese’s thoughts on creativity in a recorded lecture from some years ago (thanks to Brain Pickings for leading me to it!) and thought I’d share a quote with you:

“It is easier to do trivial things that are urgent, than to do important things that are not urgent.”

Mr. Cleese was speaking about avoiding the time and discomfort of letting the mind get into a creative state, and thus actually creating something, in favor of doing (sometimes suddenly) urgent things – changing a doctor’s appointment, organizing the silverware, amending 1974’s taxes, etc.

It seems to me that society has indeed exchanged what it deems urgent for that which is important.  It’s so tempting to be caught in the little urgencies of the day and forget to participate in the important things – share a conversation with a child, a cup of tea with a parent, comfort a wounded animal.

I’m grateful for this reminder from one of the great British comedians – and a wildly intelligent man, to boot.  Have you traded the urgent for the important?  What can we do about it?

Here’s the video in its entirety – well worth your time!

Friday’s Flash Fiction – “Lost and Found”

I am so inspired by Madison Woods‘ regular posting of Flash Fiction on Fridays, that I am finally jumping in to play along.  Following is the photo inspiration she provided, and my 100-word piece “Lost and Found“…

The moss reached up to meet her fingers, springy, dry, tickled to be noticed by a passerby.  She brushed it kindly, then reached beyond to the dark and coolly breathing crevice.  It was resting in the shadow of the sapling they had planted together.  So many springs ago, but only recent in her heart. A promise of their tomorrows together, like the buds of the little tree.  Her hand closed on the locket, still gleaming gold between the tarnished patches.  She clasped it round her neck and felt the warmth of her heart rise up to meet its chill.

The “Dog Days” of Creativity

Every August, just when we think it can’t get anymore miserable in Missouri, the dog days arrive.  Picture a panting canine, tongue lolling, body sprawled across the only cool patch of concrete he can find (under your feet on the front porch), and you have a fairly accurate idea of what the dog days of summer inspire.  Nobody wants to move.  The brain cells slow down until all they can track are half-hearted buzzing of the flies.  Every breath is laboriously pumped like a rusty bellows.  And that’s just by 7am.

I’ve noticed that creativity gets its own “dog days”, although they can strike at any time of the year.  Remember Milo in the Phantom Tollbooth?  His little car rolled along until he entered the Doldrums, where the wheels ground to a stop, and he soon lacked the motivation to even care about getting back on the road.  Creative slumps are like that.

They can occur for writers, artists, musicians, crafters, designers … anybody who depends on their own perpetual motion to keep them working at their passion.  I recently hit a dry spell in my knitting.  That may not sound like a big deal (at least to non-knitters), but trust me, it’s a crisis for those of us who have to have some sticks and string in our hands at all times!

I went through my stash.  Nothing there worth looking at.  Those bins are full, but utterly uninspiring.  I organized my patterns.  Boring.  Too hard.  Too easy.  Not my style.  In desperation, I went straight to my local yarn store, Yarn Diva, and asked if there was some kind of 12-step program I had missed signing up for.  Turns out, all I needed was some sparkly yarn with a mindless pattern and a high instant gratification factor.  It helped that it was totally not my color or style, so I could contemplate how inappropriate it was all the time I was knitting it.

It worked!  I got the jump-start I needed to get excited again about something I love to do.  I shot those dog days in their hindquarters and they’re still yelping as they run for the hills.  So, if you feel an attack of the doldrums, and your creative wheels are grinding down, do not succomb.  Shop for new supplies, attend a workshop, join an online group, or just find a friend to confide in.  Stretch yourself, learn a new skill, teach an old one – that spark is just waiting to be rekindled into a roaring fire of productivity.  Remember, the dog days don’t last long, and Indian Summer is just around the corner!