John Cleese on the conditions for being creative

by Andreas Koller

According to John Cleese, certain conditions make it more likely that something creative might occur. In order to get into the „open mode“, you have to create an oasis of quiet for yourself by setting boundaries of space and of time.

The conditions for being creative are: Space, Time, Time, Confidence and Humor.

1 Space

A quite, undisturbed place, where you can seal yourself off.

2 Time

A specific period of time, defined by a start and end.

Because being creative is playing, it is absolutely important to define a timeframe where you stop normal life and start to play. The exact time when your normal life starts again must be defined – otherwise it is not play.

„Play is distinct from ‚ordinary‘ life both as to locality and duration.“ (Johan Huizinga, Homo ludens; a study of the play-element in culture, 1955)

Also, it takes some time for your mind to quiet down, and there is no use to create an oasis that lasts 30 minutes only. Cleese suggests 1.5 hours as the perfect timeframe, but to have more of these sessions on different days.

To create this separation from normal life is tricky: „It is easier to do trivial things that are urgent, than it is to do important things that are not urgent – like thinking.“ (3:50)

„It is easier to do little things we know we can do, than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about.“ John Cleese

3 Time

Take as long as possible to come up with something original.

This doesn’t mean to procrastinate, but to take a decision when it has to be taken, not earlier.

„Don’t take the first solution to a problem – stick to it and you’ll find a more original solution!“ John Cleese

This will feel uncomfortable, because we usually take the first solution. But giving yourself maximum pondering time makes you more creative.

4 Confidence

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

„Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.“ John Cleese

Creativity is play, and play is an experiment: whatever happens is ok. „Risk saying silly, illogical and wrong things. While you’re being creative, nothing is wrong, there is no such thing as a mistake – any dribble may lead to the breakthrough.“ (10:26)

5 Humor

Humor makes us playful. It gets us from closed mode to open mode quicker than anything else.

Right so!

Via brainpickings

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