Like Truman Capote:
Or Friedrich Schiller, as described by fellow poet Stephen Spender:
[from “Creativity”, ed. PE Vernon]
Or artist Maurice Sendak:
[From “Creators on Creating”, Ed. Frank Barron, Alfonso Montuori, Anthea Barron]
Or Victor Hugo:
Or novelist Orhan Pamuk:
Many people would classify these examples as ranging from harmless eccentricity to borderline insanity, but if you’re an artist or professional creative, you can probably relate to some of them. And having spent 15 years coaching creatives and observing their work habits up close, they look perfectly normal – even essential – to me.If we recall last month’s piece about the effect of mundane routines on creativity, this kind of behavior starts to make sense. Remember the three characteristics of a hypnotic trigger:
When these three elements are present, the trigger has the effect of inducing the particular state of consciousness that is essential for creative work. In the case of daily routines, repetition is most prominent; but when it comes to bizarre working practices, uniqueness is probably the most powerful element.Capote doubtless smoked and drank coffee at other times, but the unique combination of lying down + puffing + sipping came to be so strongly associated with his writing process that he could not even ‘think’ unless he was lying down. And note that Spender says he hardly ever smoked except when writing.
Apparently the apples reminded Schiller of his youth, wandering lovestruck through the orchards in autumn. He couldn’t have known it, but the neuroscientists now tell us that the olfactory nerve has a strong connection with parts of the brain responsible for storing and recalling emotional memories. For Sendak, music has similarly powerful emotional and creative associations.
Hugo’s instructions to his servant were ostensibly to stop him walking out into the hotel corridor, imprisoning him in his room so he had to work. But the fact that he was not the only writer to work naked suggests that the birthday suit can also act as a creative trigger.
But why did Pamuk leave “for work” every morning, only to walk straight round the block and back through his own front door? He explains very clearly how important it was for him to separate the stimuli (triggers) of his home and work life:
I have always thought that the place where you sleep or the place you share with your partner should be separate from the place where you write. The domestic rituals and details somehow kill the imagination.
Whenever he could arrange it, Pamuk went to a workplace outside his home. But he and his wife once spent a semester in the US while she was studying, and he had nowhere to work but their tiny flat; the ‘circular commute’ was a last resort, a parody of a daily routine that acted as a trigger for his imagination and got him out of the domestic mindset, if not the flat itself.And just to show I’m as normal as the next creative, you may like to know this article was composed in my usual manner – fueled with coffee, walking up and down my office, dictating to the laptop via speech recognition software, listening to techno and wielding a wooden samurai sword.
How About You?
How eccentric are your creative work habits?
Do you have any little rituals or props that look strange to others, but feel essential to your creative process?
Linda, this is another AWESOME discussion.
I am all 10 of those items on the 'Creative people' list. I bore easily ... always have been ... school was the worst.
I have a really hard time staying inside of any lines. I'm always doing those things that people say I can't do, including risks ... when I am told I can't something inside me says 'Oh yes I can, and will'.
Rules are ridiculous to me, but I do try to comply to those I see the reason or purpose.
I make mistakes everyday, and change my mind everyday.
I have my own way to do things because I believe that no one has the 'correct' answer, and I might be able to improve on the accepted method(s).
And, I am everything from goofy to whacked out ... my mother says I am quite a unique person, and she should know because she raised me and experienced all of my antics and behavior ... everything from cooking weird food to taking apart the refrigerator to fix the interior light. My poor mom came home to find the refrigerator in pieces all over the kitchen floor and said, "You have one hour to put this back together, and it better work!" The funny thing is that when I put it back together the light worked.
Thanks again Linda for an intriguing discussion.