Creativity: the fickle beast

An email exerpt from Moby to Bob Lefsetz:

i had a quasi-epiphany last year when i heard david lynch talking about creativity (and forgive me if this sounds new age or hokey).
he talked about how creativity in and of itself is great, and i realized that he was right.
and i realized that, ideally, the market should accomodate art, but that art shouldn’t accomodate the market.
i know, it sounds idealistic.
i had been trying to make myself happy and make radio happy and make the label happy and make press happy and etc.
and it made me miserable.
and i also don’t really aspire to selling too many records.
see, my friends who are writers sell 20,000 books and they’re happy.
my friends who are theater directors sell 5,000 tickets during a run and they’re happy.
i like the idea of humble and reasonable metrics for determining the success of a record.
and i like the idea of respecting the sacred bond that exists between musician and listener.
again, i know this sounds hokey, but it’s where i am at present.

This was forwarded to me by a close friend and I must admit that it floored me quite a bit. It goes on but this is the part that got to me. I fully realize that A) this is very idealistic and B) it’s a bit easier for Moby to follow this direction than it is for a less-famous-musician (cough cough). However, although I consider Salvador Dalimyself a Realist in many ways, you may say that I’m a Dreamer (but I’m not the only one… sorry had to say it). I also believe that you need to follow your creative muse whether it’s the popular thing or not. I haven’t always felt this way. I tried to play the game. I tried to force my creative outlet into the popular mold in a vain effort to get my proverbial foot in the door. It didn’t do me any favors and it certainly didn’t get my foot in many doors. As the great Bill Shakespeare once wrote “To thine own self be true”. This was hard for me to grasp. I didn’t burst from the womb with the self-confidence of Picasso. It was something I learned over time. When you chase the tail of fame, for the sole purpose of fame itself, you wind up only chasing your own. It’s a never ending cycle even if the desired “fame” is eventually reached.

Now I also believe that we all play the game to a point (there’s the Realist side coming out). If you’ve ever read anything about this history of Radiohead, arguably one of the most popular bands who are paving their own creative road, would know that even they have always played the game when necessary. Even today, having shed the shackles of their record label, you will still find them doing magazine interviews, performing on the Grammy’s, etc.. They certainly don’t have to. They could fall back on their Kid A format and just release albums via word of mouth and still live out a comfortable existence for the rest of their days. You just can’t forget to separate the game from the dream.

History has shown us that it’s the ones that follow the road less traveled, the ones that damn convention and dive-in head first that tend to make the largest splash. They’re also the ones that stand the test of time. Salvador Dali, e e cummings, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Pablo Picasso, John Lennon – just some of my personal favorites that I believe hold true to this. Can you truly follow creativity for creativity’s sake? I, personally, am willing to give it a go.

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8 Comments on "Creativity: the fickle beast"

  1. Jen Mathis
    14/04/2009 at 9:36 pm Permalink

    Creativity is such a sensitive little thing, isn’t it?

    You can’t force it, or the results will show that you did.

    You can’t “schedule” it, because it won’t play with you if it’s not ready to.

    However, in that rare instance when you’re able (and willing) to let your creativity “do its thing,” it feels great, and the results reflect it. :)

  2. Administrator
    14/04/2009 at 11:35 pm Permalink

    I think you’re an excellent example of that! Your Ohnebau blog is extremely creative and compelling. Not to mention your art! You make great use out of your creative muse. :-) But you’re absolutely right. It must flow. You most certainly can’t force it.

  3. ReinventingJess
    16/04/2009 at 9:36 pm Permalink

    I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with promoting yourself, as long as it doesn’t inhibit your creativity. Also, your creative outlet may just happen to fit the mold of whatever is popular at the time, lending to invitations for magazine interviews or the grammys, for example.

    I’ve also heard the description of the difference between an Amateur and a Professional. An amateur being someone who does their craft just for the pure joy of it. While a professional would be someone who does their craft for money. While I am sure that doesn’t apply to EVERYONE, I think it really is a fine line to not start veering in the direction of what makes everyone else happy, or just doing something for the sake of making a buck. It’s a thin line, but I don’t think an impossible one.

  4. Jeremy
    17/04/2009 at 3:46 pm Permalink

    That’s part of what I meant by everyone plays the game to a point. I probably should have clarified a bit more to that point though. We ALL cater what we do for others at some level. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with using your creativity to try and make money. In fact, that’s most of our goals. But it’s when you’re gold-digging the latest fads just to ride the wave that I’m more referring too. Perfect example… Creed and the horrible onslaught of rip-offs that proceeded them. That is especially true at the local level. I got so sick of playing shows with Creed rip-off bands who sounded exactly like them. It was disheartening.

    It’s all really a matter of intention. I don’t think it’s “selling out” to have music in commercials or anything like that. It’s more when you coral your creative outputs into a specific direction because you want to jump on the bandwagon, and not because it’s from the heart, that I have a problem with it.

  5. essesq
    19/06/2009 at 4:47 am Permalink

    I love this post. I also love your website. Both are very fine expressions of a creative spirit at peace with itself. There is nothing more beautiful than that. You are a very fine example for the rest of us. Don’t reply with anything contradictory, it will be automatically deleted. :-)

  6. Jeremy
    21/06/2009 at 1:37 am Permalink

    Awwww! You have totally made my day. That was so nice to say! I’ll try not to contradict your lovely comments, LOL. Seriously, it was greatly appreciated. :-)

  7. Ted
    02/02/2010 at 8:47 pm Permalink

    From my experience (which could be useless or essential)
    Any vain attachments to the idea of fame must be renounced for creativity to flow.
    Get to the heart of it, are you creating because you enjoy it? Are you enjoying it? Then record it and let someone else enjoy it.
    Anyone see the grammys this week? Is success in todays music industry really what I want? Commercial success obviously does not validate creativity, it just means some companys making enough money off you to allow you into the stardom circle!
    Id be happy to get paid to do what I love, but once you start getting paid to do it theres deadlines demands etc..Tried this with photography , once money starting coming in, passion starting going out….. a fine line indeed.

  8. Jeremy
    03/02/2010 at 12:37 am Permalink

    All great points Ted. It truly is a fine line. Of course I wouldn’t mind trying out the “experiment” of getting paid to do what I love. haha

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