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The David Bowie Rules

I remember being five and finding one of my older brother’s junior high school notebooks. On the cover, he had scrawled “David Bowie Rules.”

I didn’t know who David Bowie was, but I wanted to know what his rules were. I felt stupid asking my brother about this.

I decided to create my own version of David Bowie’s Rules and keep them to myself. I don’t really remember thinking too much at all about what to base the rules on. I just wrote. So I listed them in my own notebook. I only got two rules down:

1. Snack at 3:00

2. Gandalf can’t go in the living room.

The Rules were recovered recently as I was ordered by my Mother to sort through my boxes of collected nonsense in the attic of their home. Aside from a fond remembrance of Gandalf, our dog from 1982-1993, I was moved at how I had interpreted my brother’s words.

These “Rules” are an example of exactly what we strive for in approaching our work: Naivety.

This ability to see the world as a child is a gift that few possess as an adult. Every year we get older and creatively dumber. Our senses become attuned to our surroundings in such a way that we literally sleepwalk through our days. Everything is routine. Our senses get numbed. It is why we stare so long at the shocking (a horrible accident) or the never before seen (foreign travel). When we come upon these rare instances, we are briefly children again, eyes wide and mouth slightly ajar. Never will our reactions to this instances be so pure and unfiltered.

It is not just naivety we should strive for, but also a sense of creative urgency.

Jelly Helm recently brought to my attention the idea of creative “urgency.” He pointed me to a film as an example, Jonathan Demme’s recent documentary, “Heart of Gold.” Neil Young gets a brain aneurysm and schedules a surgery to save his life, Before the procedure he writes and records an album, “Prairie Wind,”. The urgency he had at that moment comes through in the lyrics. You could sense a man giving away the last bit of himself creatively.

Think about other instances of beautiful clarity in one’s last words throughout history. Revolutionary War Spy Nathan Hale, who before being hanged by the British declared, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Or War of 1812 hero Captain James Lawrence’s “Don’t give up the ship.” And maybe said best, Karl Marx’s final comment was, “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!”

Hopefully no one reading this is in such dire straits. And most likely none of you is a very young child. We can only hope to mimic these points; to imagine ourselves perceiving something for the first time, or facing the possibility of our last voice.

Urgency and naivety are keys to connecting your work with your audience. Every audience is varied, but I think these both touch upon something that we all share. We are all human. On some level we respond and connect to the purity that flows from these two points. We all have observed the wonder of a child seeing something for the first time, or feel the gravity of ones situation as they face illness or death.

It is that naivety and urgency which pushes us towards creative clarity.

No bullshit. Just passion and a clear idea.

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PUBLISHED ON Jun.04.2006 BY Jimm Lasser
ravenone’s comment is:

I've got creativity to spare. Too many ideas and not enough time or the skill to put all of them into action... (than again maybe that's a good thing)...The idea of losing that? is terrifying.

On Jun.04.2006 at 02:32 PM
Randy’s comment is:

In some ways, I believe this is what we're getting at when we embrace constraits. Urgency is certainly a time constraint; naivety is an understanding constraint.

We have a hard time trying to simulate these particular conditions, so we look for other contraints. Time? We'll make our own, procrastinate, set ludicrous limits. Tell yourself to finish in 2 hours what would normally take 8. It probably won't be done, but it will be different than what you would do in 8 hours. That different may very well be toward clarity (or any other characteristic which would define a better design given the circumstances).

To simulate naivety, perhaps a DeBono-like approach of starting with something completely unrealated. We're good at making up connections, and those can push us toward something better.

On Jun.04.2006 at 03:46 PM
alexey’s comment is:

I was thinking about it lately, the lost of the naivete and childish view of the world. The irony is that I remember pretty well the times, when we were at high school and used to sip tea in the kitchen, play guitar and talk bs to each other and then suddenly say "yeah, we should stay like this, when we are 30". I am almost 30 now, and I'd say, I've managed to lose all the humour, lightheartedness and, well, nice ability to get surprised. Too much happened since that time.. So how do I get these feelings back?..

On Jun.05.2006 at 10:44 AM
David E.’s comment is:

I think that both things are tied in together.

Do we really lose the ability create as children do? I think it's more a case of standards we have for ourselves as adults creating intimidation. The only way to be good at what you do is to think of yourself as being good and give yourself a reputation to live up to. There's a lot of ego involved. Why else would anyone procrastinate? A little voice in my head says "I know I can do a great job with this, and I'm eventually going to, therefore, I don't have to do it right now." It makes no sense, of course.

Creative urgency is the way you get around that. I think there's something about an impending deadline that forces your mind to think creatively.

On Jun.05.2006 at 05:32 PM
David E.’s comment is:

I guess what I'm saying is that creative urgency, while creating one kind of pressure (you have to get it done on time), takes the some of the pressure off in regards to the quality. "If it's not good, it's not my fault. I have a deadline to meet." The urgency to get it done lets your mind concentrate on the creative.

On Jun.05.2006 at 05:43 PM
Armin’s comment is:

I understand the need for naivety, and the David Bowie Rules is a perfect example – I can only imagine David Bowie's rules, and that makes it pretty funny… However I don't think naivety alone propels creativity. Understanding how to transform (and pitch) naivety in an adult world is the name of the game. We can let our mind wander like a child playing with his shadow for the first time but if you don't have the skills to parlay those discoveries into something tangible then you will play yourself to death and claim that no one understands you and what a bunch of old dumb fucks everyone is. Passion and a clear idea can only get you so far, you have to work the system and the "system" is mostly run by people who take offense at even being thought of as naive and take pride in being adults. Think like a child, act like and adult, then, I guess.

On Jun.05.2006 at 09:50 PM
jenn.suz.hoy’s comment is:

Restraints is a big thing I'm dealing with when I now do work "on my own time." Everyone goes through spells, they want to create, they want to create, and they're forcing it so hard that nothing of substance actually comes out. How do we fix this?

One thing I've embraced to get the creativity back, is to try something new. It's sounds old and cliche, but it works. Be it a new location, a new media. Another thing I do to get my creativity when I'm feeling useless is to do something old. I will do studies, character sketches, repetition. Eventually, with all the repeating, you will find that your mind will dull to the point where you're not thinking and trying so hard, that your ideas will come flooding back.

What's funny, is in my quest for something new, I recently realized I never sat in a public place and just sketched before. I had professors try to get me to do all the way, and I felt uncomfortable. Because I was a student and always working with other restraints besides my comfort level, I could relatively find enough restrictions to work around to get ideas out there. But now that I'm on my own, I'm mesmerized about where to start. So, I went to a coffee shop and sketched the people that were there. It was uncomfortable, and I felt like I was an intruder on their downtime, but it did open my eyes to a new perspective. And it got me excited to try something else that broke out of my comfort zone.

It's a great restraint to work with, as there will always be something that you are not 100% confident in doing. My suggestion is do it.

On Jun.08.2006 at 12:05 PM