The Basic Principles:
a thorough examination of your creative impulses
using ten interconnected frames
Below we introduce the principles and the method of investigation. These are supplemented with the “FreakGenius Method for Creativity” ebook.
If you do not already have a copy, please feel free to grab one through
Warning: Text-heavy content below!
Read, digest, ruminate, examine…
and then contact me with thoughts on
your next steps and
how I can help you further.
We now will break the creative act into its components…
FreakGenius Academy for Creative Studies
“A fierce internal debate, between staying moored and drifting away, between holding on and letting go. Perhaps wisdom lies in our ability to negotiate between these two poles. Necessary to us, both of them – but how to live in connection without feeling suffocated, compromised, erased? We long to connect; we fear that if we do, our freedom and individuality will disappear.”
– Mark Doty, Still life with Oysters and Lemons
Long after we’re gone, one of the few criteria by which future earthlings will measure the people of our time will be our cultural contribution. The criteria for the measurements are these:
a. How did we treat people (society, war/peace),
b. What did we make (manufacturing and business), and
c. How artful did we make the things we made (culture).
In living creative lives, we develop constructive ways of seeing and expressing experiences and concepts, and see ourselves and our living daily acts of expression within larger contexts. This is because we seek to do more than merely communicate. What we want is to be understood at the most fundamental levels, by others and by ourselves. Collectively, the myriad ways in which we communicate defines and becomes culture.
Note: Here’s a great resource: “10 rules for students and teachers” by John Cage and the brilliant educator, Sister Corita Kent:
#1. Discipline = Fun!
… or “Where is the work and what does it mean to work at something so esoteric?”
The writer Ernest Hemmingway stood in front of a typewriter typing from 6am to noon every day. Others are lazy as hell and drift a lot. There is no single secret to what it takes to make creative work.
Because art is not real life – it merely reflects (or can reflect) life, as seen through one or more overlays – the making of creative work is more like raising a child than some stereotypic idea of an art party. Andy Warhol’s Factory has been portrayed as a non-stop holiday, but Mr. Warhol himself was always working, while the revelers were occasionally starring in his projects. When Steven Spielberg and his team were making the film E.T., no one was doing that type of thing with a big picture company budget, and they spoke of being very scared and concerned that the production company executives even know exactly what they were doing, because of fears that it would seem far too childish and not worthy. Only after it came out and became a success did they breathe sighs of relief.
A child brings great joy, but not always and not every moment. Sometimes they cause you to question everything you are doing for them. The wonderful moments make it all worthwhile, but the difficult successes are also noteworthy for their own value. Sometimes it is merely about finding the fun adventure within the journey, like the Glass Half Full concept.
#2. Reinterpreting the Classics
… or “Just because it has all been said before doesn’t mean anyone has ever heard it the way you are going to say it.”
I was 16 and walked up to some friends and proudly laid a new joke of mine on them. I told them and then laughed myself, because I thought it was funny and from the delight of having come up wit it. One of them turned to the other and said, “I know that one. Didn’t Mark tell us that one once?” They agreed that he had and turned back to me and said, “Paul, you didn’t make that one up, it’s old.” I replied, “Ok, but I made it up… for me!” and I laughed some more.
Actually, in all likelihood, everything’s been done before in one way or another by someone somewhere. And that is a great starting point for our work, because it doesn’t have to be about finding the thing no one has ever done, but instead can be about our own unique take on the world. Maybe, when creating something from a less megalomaniacal point of view we might have that vision of some brand new invention. But while we can keep that secret wish tucked away at the back of the mind, we can embrace our own individualism and join the rest of the humans here, and kick in with our very special and unique blend of sensibilities and training that make our work special.
… or “Every message can be said… but some are said really well.”
Why do you need to say whatever it is you plan on saying? Whatever it is, I’m guessing you want to be understood, right? You want to communicate something you feel is important, so let’s examine the context. Is this a stand-alone idea? Will it resonate with people without any additional information or is the type of thing that needs a little background information?
Message is one of many aspects requiring investigation. The medium will also need to be examined. Just because you’re a musician doesn’t mean you need to make every idea musically. If a playwright comes up with a cool idea for a movement play – like Samuel Beckett often did – or a dancer develops an idea better suited to a children’s book, would he/she spend too much time trying to form-fit the idea to the talents already learned, or would he/she have the clarity of mind to examine the message, choose the right frame and respect the message enough to figure out how to do what’s right for it?
#4. Why Make Anything?
… or “You think you have something to say, now let’s start before you begin and find out what it is really about.”
The answer better not be something like, “because it feels good” because that is a selfish motivation and not at all generous.
I’m not suggesting it can’t be fun. This is the stuff that comes before the work. It is the hard work. And the hard work doesn’t have to draw blood, because there is a lot of fun in working hard at important concepts. The hard mental work resembles the hard physical work of training in a discipline by rewarding the individual with the satisfaction that comes from investigating something to very deep levels. Most spiders rebuild their webs every day; and the reward is (hopefully) their next meal.
Intention runs to the core of everything we do with our lives.
… or “Why turning away from success can lead to the creation of successful messages.”
Failure means we are trying. When we are young we know this. We screw up, fall down, get cuts, taste dirt, cry and get up and do it all over again and never once consider any of it failure. We only begin to see it as failure when we are told 1. It IS failure in anothers eyes, and 2. Failure is BAD. Then we begin our indoctrination into the conformist rules of society.
#6. Face Dancing
… or “Neck-up work: where the viewer’s focus often is.”
We direct people’s focus in many ways every day, whether it be insisting a child or co-worker do something your way, or setting a table for a dinner party, or telling a story at a bar. Focus attenuates the information delivered. And I stress that this is more about improving the possibility of getting the message across than it is about trickery or manipulation, which have their place within communication but do best when at the service of the good message rather than instead of the good message. .
… or “Step out of your own preconceptions of what could be and learn something about your partners and yourself.”
The trouble arrives when we work with others. If everyone talks at once and says what he/she would do (read: what we as a group should do here right now), no one is listening and no agreements will be reached. Learning to cooperate with others makes teams operate. Learning how to collaborate enables more than one person to contribute ideas to the process. And yes, everything you will do can in one way or another be considered a dialogue with someone – helpers, co-workers or end-users… everyone involved becomes part of your work.
#8. You as a Business
… or “Art isn’t just for fun: it is essential and you can earn more than just critical acclaim by doing it well and taking charge of your life/career.”
The concept of viewing yourself as a valuable asset to your work helps you in many ways: it strengthens your optimism and your resolve, and allows you to feel the confidence you deserve to carry with you to face a world that doesn’t know they’ve been waiting for you and your gifts.
… or “Whether Stretching is verb or noun, your different types of muscles (physical or brain) need to be lengthened as well as strengthened.”
Stretch your muscles, your mind, your theories, your skills, your awareness of your medium and other mediums, your understanding of the world, your understanding of your peers and colleagues, your sense of yourself… as a person, an artist, and a citizen of spaceship Earth.
The alternative is to wither and slowly die, while adapting to a compromised life.
#10. Taking It Public
… or “When you no longer are satisfied keeping your ideas in the vacuum, or locked away in your room.”
You are about to release something you’ve made out into the world and of course you want it to succeed. You may even have hopes that it will bring you some success. I personally think it is good to have that type of aspiration in the back of your mind because it tastes of optimism, hope and confidence. Will that happen? We cannot control the myriad factors involved. We can only try.
The above principles are the basic elements required to fully examine your creative direction and its messages. This is supplemented somewhat with my ebook, FreakGenius Creativity Method. Yes you can work on this on your own, and yes, I will be delighted if this is enough to galvanize your resolve to get out of your own way and make things right now.
I will welcome any thoughts, questions, comments, and inquiries for my continued assistance along your creative journeys.
My very best to you. Now… get started!