The Guardian asked various artists, playwrights, musicians, dancers, etc. to give their top tips for ‘unleashing your inner genius’. Take a look here. It’s a great way to decide on some new year resolutions if you wish you could be more creative and adventurous over the coming year, even if the only ‘canvas’ you have to paint on is the day ahead of you
Here are some of my highlighs:
Guy Garvey, musician:
Spending time in your own head is important…
Just start scribbling. The first draft is never your last draft. Nothing you write is by accident.
Don’t be scared of failure.
The best advice I’ve ever had came about 20 years ago from Mano McLaughlin, one of Britain’s best songwriters. “The song is all,” he said, “Don’t worry about what the rest of the music sounds like: you have a responsibility to the song.” I found that really inspiring: it reminded me not to worry about whether a song sounds cool, or fits with everything we’ve done before – but just to let the song be what it is.
Mark-Anthony Turnage, composer:
Forget the idea that inspiration will come to you like a flash of lightning. It’s much more about hard graft.
Find a quiet studio to work in. Shostakovich could not have composed with the telly on.
Try to find a studio with more than one window. I work best when I have windows in two walls, for some reason; maybe it is because there is more light. At the moment, I’m working in a room with no windows. It’s not going well at all.
If you get overexcited by an idea, take a break and come back to it later. It is all about developing a cold eye with which to look over your own work.
Rupert Goold, director:
The best ideas are tested by their peaks and troughs. One truly great image or scene astride a broken mess is more intriguing than a hundred well-made cliches.
Once you have an idea, scrutinise the precedent. If no one has explored it before in any form then you’re 99% likely to be making a mistake. But that 1% risk is why we do it.
Make sure you are asking a question that is addressed both to the world around you and the world within you. It’s the only way to keep going when the doubt sets in.
An idea is just a map. The ultimate landscape is only discovered when it’s under foot, so don’t get too bogged down in its validity.
Love the effect over its cause.
Isaac Julien, artist:
I have a magpie attitude to inspiration: I seek it from all sorts of sources; anything that allows me to think about how culture comes together. I’m always on the lookout – I observe people in the street; I watch films, I read, I think about the conversations that I have. I consider the gestures people use, or the colours they’re wearing. It’s about taking all the little everyday things and observing them with a critical eye; building up a scrapbook which you can draw on. Sometimes, too, I look at other artworks or films to get an idea of what not to do.
Lucy Prebble, playwright:
Act it out yourself. Draw the curtains.
If ever a character asks another character, “What do you mean?”, the scene needs a rewrite.
Feeling intimidated is a good sign. Writing from a place of safety produces stuff that is at best dull and at worst dishonest.
Write backwards. Start from the feeling you want the audience to have at the end and then ask “How might that happen?” continually, until you have a beginning.
Break any rule if you know deep inside that it is important.
Susan Philipsz, artist:
If you have a good idea, stick to it. Especially if realising the project is a long and demanding process, try to keep true to the spirit of the initial idea.
Daydream. Give yourself plenty of time to do nothing. Train journeys are good.
Keep it simple.
It doesn’t always have to make sense.
Polly Morgan, artist:
Don’t wait for a good idea to come to you. Start by realising an average idea – no one has to see it. If I hadn’t made the works I’m ashamed of, the ones I’m proud of wouldn’t exist.
Be brief, concise and direct. Anyone who over-complicates things is at best insecure and at worst stupid. Children speak the most sense and they haven’t read Nietzsche.
Don’t try to second-guess what people will want to buy. Successful artists have been so because they have shown people something they hadn’t imagined. If buyers all knew what they wanted before it had been made, they could have made it themselves, or at least commissioned it.
Don’t be afraid to scrap all your hard work and planning and do it differently at the last minute. It’s easier to hold on to an idea because you’re afraid to admit you were wrong than to let it go.
Ian Rickson, director:
You cannot overprepare. Enjoy being as searching and thorough as possible before you begin, so you can be as free as possible once you’ve started.
Lots of this, of course, can be applied to preaching. In fact, wouldn’t our preaching take off if we really took some of this to heart (and kept praying and meditating on the scriptures and deepening our faith etc…).
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