I’m reading an article in a 2009 issue of The Sun about Paul Krassner, a person whose name is tantamount to the countercultural movement of the 1960s in the United States. Humorist, writer, editor, satirist, social critic, child violin prodigy—Krassner is the person who encouraged Lenny Bruce to do stand-up, later becoming a comedian himself, as well as a proto-gonzo journalist who participated in the stories he covered a la Hunter Thompson. Krassner would found the highly influential and radical underground newspaper The Realist, establishing his identity as a political revolutionary, meanwhile also palling around with psychedelic revolutionaries Tim Leary, Ken Kesey, and Ram Dass. In collaboration with Abbie Hoffman, Krassner helped to politicize and theatricalize the swell of social revolution in America by co-creating the Yippie party. Recognized as a cultural hero by such diverse organizations as the ACLU and High Times magazine, Krassner has remained dedicated to freedom of expression, sexual liberty, anti-war demonstration, and marijuana legalization throughout numerous books, comedy albums, essays, and articles appearing in every hip, leftist, tantalizing, taboo-shattering periodical published in America for the past fifty years. It can be said that Krassner is a living legend.
And it has taken me almost a month just to write a second blog entry.
For three years I’ve been in college, learning creative foundations while studying traditional and digital arts, and I have produced work of which I am proud in a variety of media. I have diligently observed the guidelines and deadlines administered by my instructors throughout that time, and I have delivered quality material in response to the prompts that have been provided and the feedback generated. Now that I have received my Associates degree, however, and having been trained in most of the hard and soft wares that I will continue to use throughout and beyond the year and some change that remains between me and my Bachelors, I’m facing total responsibility for my own creative output. This means deciding what it is that I want to create and in what medium, knowing my process for creation, and setting a schedule of goals to be achieved daily, weekly, monthly, etc. Although I know I am capable, I have been slow to accept my creative liberties because this transition into independence is a formidable thing.
Remember in Shawshank Redemption when Andy first gets to prison, and all the fresh fish are standing naked in that holding area while the warden lays down his and God’s authority, and that one smart-ass prisoner is all like, “When do we eat?”, so the warden’s main-henchman-guard-dude socks smart-ass in the gut and answers that he, incarcerated maggot-dick that he is, will eat, shit, and piss when told? Well, ignoring the implied comparison of college to prison that I just inadvertently made there, my reason for stalling on the blog is that I’m kinda waiting for the manager to give me permission to take a bathroom break lest I struggle to squeeze out a single drop as if I’m Morgan Freeman near the end of the movie, and really what I should be doing is breaking my parole and hopping on a bus to personal freedom so that I can get busy livin’ instead of dyin’.
When I’ve thought about this blog and what it should represent—the message, narrative, or theme that I want to convey or, alternatively, abandon for a more random format—it’s my concern for being creative that simultaneously impels and impedes me. What do I have to say that’s relevant or of any value to anyone else or myself, and how do I say it creatively? Obviously, I need to draw on my creative process, the one I’ve been learning, practicing, and utilizing full-time for years, but the problem is that I am having a hard time initiating it. I want to act, but how should I do so? I need direction. I need Inspiration. Just. One. Little. Drop. And then the creativity can flow painlessly.
Keith Johnstone dedicated his book Impro to the topic of creativity, specifically to repairing the creative drive that he saw as being routinely damaged by academic and social conditioning, which Johnstone felt was teaching people to suppress creativity for the sake of normalcy. Johnstone advocates fostering creative impulses through spontaneity, a technique he believes disarms the “watchers at the gates” of our minds and allows access to the unconscious selves who manage the storehouses from which creative visions emerge. Johnstone’s methods are meant to facilitate a creative flow that does not halt to consider what it should or should not do. Participants in his improvisational workshops are guided in creating situations that defy expectations and are built on a system of generosity wherein collaborators practice continuance of action through an unending series of agreements. Accepting and offering is a basic tenet of improvisation. Viola Spolin, another proponent of improvisational action, used exercises like the “Yes, and…” game, where one player starts by offering any statement that another player hears and responds to with their own statement that begins “Yes, and…”, thereby accepting the last thing said and adding to it so that the next player has something to work with for their own “Yes, and….” Play continues ad infinitum. The goal is not to say the most creative thing. The goal of the game is to maintain the game’s momentum.
A very important thing with this exercise and with all improvisational exercises is that someone must begin with an action, verbal or physical, and that action can literally be anything. That is the most daunting part about the creative process, finding the correct place to begin (and ultimately end). A lot of people typically will not act at all because they are afraid of acting incorrectly, i.e. saying or doing something stupid, insane, unoriginal, revealing, inappropriate, etc., but these are exactly the things people like Johnstone and Spolin want their students to explore without fear of where they will end up. This is a lot like the objective of mindfulness practices that have been trending for a little while now—awareness and acceptance of the present moment, without fixity or fatalism, so that a productive response to one’s current environment can be achieved with minimal mediation.
This blog entry has gotten where it is because I spontaneously engaged my two adolescent children in discussion on the topic of creativity while the three of us were lounging upstairs in our home a couple days ago. I grabbed my sketchbook and started word-mapping as we spoke, returning to and circling words that recurred until a theme appeared. We all seemed to believe that creativity requires uniqueness and originality, which I remembered from Johnstone are exactly the pressures that inhibit most people’s creative action. From there I incorporated recent correspondences, such as the Krassner article I’d encountered or my wife’s observation that I tend to use scenes from favorite movies when I’m analogizing. These altogether motivated a response from me in the form of this blog entry about how I eventually overcame the challenge of writing it by simply acting on my impulse to do so and then processing what occurred. Out of the myriad ways this particular entry could have gone, this is where it has happened to end up.
It’s possible that this entry will offer itself to the next, and that the third entry may take the second’s offer and build on it so that something resembling rationality will take hold and carry on effortlessly to the fourth. By the time the tenth entry rolls around, this blog will possibly be somewhere that I currently have no conscious intention of taking it. If each entry accepts the last and does not hesitate to keep the game going, then there is no limit to how this blog may unfold. Right now, though, we can begin with a brief musing on creativity itself, its human processes and associations both philosophical and practical. Yes, and there will be more soon to come.