89 little inspiring thoughts and observations around the creative process written by someone who’s been in the thick of it for decades
Chupa Chups lollipops asked Dalí to design a new logo. He created a daisy insignia and lettering (still appearing on the candies today).
Make the most of inexperience. A beginner has a fresh perspective. Amateurs are open to new ideas: they’ll try anything. They don’t know how things “should” be done, and haven’t yet become entrenched in a particular method.
Avoid becoming an expert, specialist or authority. An expert constantly refers to past experience. Whatever has worked in the past, the expert repeats. An expert turns knowledge into a repetitive ritual.
The most courageous act is to think for yourself. Aloud.
Einstein doubted Newton. Picasso doubted Michelangelo. Beethoven doubted Mozart.
If we didn’t have doubt, we would not have any new ideas.
Nothing is absolutely certain.
Certainty satisfies your hunger for answers with minimal effort.
Certainty is a convenient and easy way out of our discomfort.
The famous photograph of Brunel standing before the launching chains of the SS Great Eastern created an idea of Brunel as a romantic genius, arrogantly relaxed and confident. Although it looks like a snapshot of an insouciant savant taking a break, it was actually a painstaking act of image manipulation. This classic “snapshot” in fact took several days to construct. In the other photos taken on the shoot, although artfully posed, Brunel appears hesitant, insignificant, balding, conservative and inconsequential against the backdrop of huge chains and ships. Yet one photo struck the right note. Both the photographer and Brunel were searching for an idealized image.
If you have to tell us how important you are, you’re not very important.
Embrace the following attitude: I’m not sure what I do or why; let’s work it out together.
If you are being less than you are capable of being, you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities.
Although Picasso had produced thousands of paintings over his lifetime, he only ever selected the best 5 percent for exhibition. The rest remained in the vault.
If you produce one hundred ideas, one of them is likely to be great
The first forty ideas are obvious. The next forty are unusual and offbeat.
The last twenty are strange and surreal because you are pushing your mind into areas it’s never been before.
Generate more ideas, and more work, with less attachment.
Takeout restaurant: a restaurant without a kitchen, where customers could order from the menus of nearby takeout joints and have their food delivered to their table.
Work on an idea constantly until it’s resolved. The minute we lose momentum, we lose the thread.
If you don’t know where you’re going, the journey is more surprising and your work is more enriching.
The highest purpose is to have no purpose at all.
Mitchell Feigenbaum began living by a twenty-six-hour clock. His days went in and out of phase with theirs. He periodically woke up to a setting sun, or had breakfast when they were having supper. He was studying chaos and wanted randomness in everyday life.
Routine behavior leads to routine thinking.
If you want to change your art, change your habits.
Luxury is a motivational sedative. It’s a hindrance. It saps us of incentive. It whispers to our unconscious mind to relax, to take it easy.
Neutral, simple, humble spaces are what help us to focus.
All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography. - Federico Fellini
If you feel overlooked, that no one is interested in what you’re doing, enjoy the moment. Obscurity is a creative place.
You are free to experiment and fail. No one is watching. No one has any expectations.
Make the most of the freedom obscurity offers.
I’m afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. - Aldous Huxley
Man becomes what he believes himself to be.
Develop a set of principles you believe in and constantly strive to uphold.
Leo Tolstoy decreed, “Change nothing in your style of living even if you become ten times richer.”
Raymond Chandler set aside at least four hours each day to do nothing.
He explained his two simple rules for this time:
“A. You don’t have to write. B. You can’t do anything else. The rest comes of itself.”
He didn’t force himself to write, but he stopped himself from doing anything else.
No reading, writing letters, tidying - nothing.
Without distractions, his imagination wandered and he’d think up a story.
He almost always ended up writing for the full four hours.
Don’t consider an episode of The Simpsons to be better or worse than a Shakespeare play.
Don’t assume that because everyone thinks something is worthless, it actually is.
The contractors hired to build the Bilbao Guggenheim were simply given Gehry’s small model, and were challenged to work out the measurements themselves.
Juan Gris told me about a bunch of grapes he had seen in a painting by Picasso.
The next day these grapes appeared in a painting by Gris, this time in a bowl.
And the day after, the bowl appeared in a painting by Picasso.
Copying is often misunderstood by people who are not creative.
Cultivate your curiosity and you will constantly refresh your perspective.
Working under another name will free you of others’ expectations and, most importantly, free you of your own.
The way to achieve the perfect work-life balance is simple: don’t do any work.
If your work and life are in separate compartments, something’s gone wrong.
Choose a lifestyle, then work out what you have to do to make a living within that way of life.
Choose a path that will let your abilities function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of your desires.
Don’t dedicate your life to reaching a predefined goal, but rather choose a way of life you know you will enjoy.
If you’d rather go on vacation than go to work - you need to change your life.
When you’re given an opportunity, take it and see where it leads, even if you have no idea how you’ll make it work.
Say yes, then work out how to pull it off. Rise to the occasion when an occasion arises.
How many opportunities have you missed?
I’ve lost count of the number of people I know who have been given one and didn’t take it.
They were blasé. They assumed another would come along, then another and another. But they didn’t.
These people had one chance, and they let it pass them by.
In retrospect, they bitterly regret it. Opportunities are often rare and fleeting.
Only idiots fail to contradict themselves three times a day. - Friedrich Nietzsche
There is pressure in our culture to be clear what you stand for, to make a decision and stick to it. It’s practically a criminal offense to change your mind.
Immerse yourself in every aspect of your interest. Know everything there is to know about it.
Many of Andy Warhol’s paintings started out as a joke.
Humor is a bait and switch.
A joke is funny because it causes “insight switchover” from a familiar pattern to a new, unexpected one.
It is this moment of surprise and realization that triggers laughter.
Creativity is about producing the unexpected and seeing things from a new perspective.
Creativity is the defeat of habit by originality.
The true teacher protects students against his or her own influence. These teachers encourage students to distrust them. They produce no disciples. A creative teacher teaches nothing, but provides a learning environment.
The main task of a teacher is to teach students to question everything - including their teacher.
Analyze the way you think.
What was your best idea? Think back to how you had it and what preceded it.
What was your worst idea? Did it germinate in a different way from your best idea?
Who regularly inspires you? What can you learn from them?
What do you enjoy most about your working process?