Just some Friday afternoon thoughts.
The decline of creativity is what psychologists refer to as ‘inculturation.’ That as we get older, as we get tenure in a field, we become invested in the status quo. We develop habitual ways of thinking, routines, we develop customs in terms of how we solve problems. Those make our lives a little bit easier, they make it easier to apply for grants. They make our days a little more efficient but they also make it harder to think outside the box.
— Jonah Lehrer on aging and creativity.
It’s tough to associate creativity with mental illness because obviously if you’re very ill, it gets in the way. … But one of the theories now is that the terrible swings of the mental illness – of bipolar depression – you get these manic highs, these euphorias, where the ideas just pour out of you. And you need to write them down. That’s followed by this dismal low period when maybe you’re a better editor. Maybe it’s easier for you to focus and refine those epiphanies into a perfect form. … The thinking is maybe the correlation exists because the swings of mental illness echo the natural swings of the creative process.
— Jonah Lehrer, on the link between depression and creativity. [complete interview here]
If you’re an engineer working on a problem and you’re stumped by your technical problem, chugging caffeine at your desk and chaining yourself to your computer, you’re going to be really frustrated. You’re going to waste lots of time. You may look productive, but you’re actually wasting time. Instead, at that moment, you should go for a walk. You should play some ping-pong. You should find a way to relax.
— Dear TG: Today’s show with Jonah Lehrer explains why we should have a ping-pong table in the Fresh Air office. (Pretty please?)
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
— Ira Glass (via nefffy)