I just heard a fascinating interview with sculptor and stop-motion animator John Frame, who explained how his long-term project “The Tale of the Crippled Boy” came to him in a dream. Frame had been a sculptor for decades but had hit a creative wall, or more precisely had run out of steam, to use another metaphor. He had reached a point in his creative work where he just couldn’t create anymore.
Then one night he had a lucid dream in which he imagined an entire world populated with characters in motion. He somehow recognized that these characters were his own creations, and in that dream state he spent several hours observing this world. When when he woke up early in the morning, he captured it all in drawings and notes and storyboards and began his current stop-motion animation project. Did I mention that he had never done stop-motion before? But now “The Tale of the Crippled Boy” has become his entire creative activity.
You can see Frame’s initial animations here on Vimeo:
I have to admit that I’m not drawn to the creative product, fascinating and detailed as it is — too bizarre to appeal to me. But what I am intrigued by is the way the idea came to the creator — seemingly arriving out of the blue in a dream state. Everybody dreams, and I suspect that lucid dreaming is fairly common. However, the important thing here is that Frame got up and captured it all so he could turn the idea into a creative product. It’s also significant that the stop-motion product draws on his many years of work as a sculptor.
This experience illustrates what I think are some important lessons about the creative process, and it follows the ideas set out in my favorite book on this topic — A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Webb Young. Written in 1965, this is a brilliant treatise for anyone involved in creative work — Young was actually an advertising guy, but his ideas really apply to anyone in the arts. It’s only 36 pages. You can buy it for a few dollars on Amazon and read it in an hour or so.
Thinking about Young’s book and John Frame’s experience, here are some lessons I extract:
- Work very hard over the long term to develop your creative skills, whatever they are — design, writing, drawing, sculpture, painting, music — or skills that are creative but more commonly used in the business world, such as copywriting, graphic design, or art direction. I would also extend this lesson into areas such as innovation, science, engineering, and architecture.
- When you are up against a creative problem, put a lot of concentrated effort into analyzing the problem, doing research, brainstorming, testing ideas.
- When you are sick and tired of all that concentrating, take a break for an hour, a day, a week, or even longer. Do something else. Relax. Exercise. Go for a hike. Watch a movie. Read. Or go to sleep.
- At an unexpected moment an idea or a series of ideas will come to you. Be prepared to capture these ideas — have the tools you need always available to write down or draw out ideas that come to you. I always carry a pocket notebook and set of pens with me. Ideas often come to me when I’m out walking. Like Frame, ideas have sometimes come to me in dreams or just before sleeping or just upon waking up.
- After the idea comes to you, work with it and adjust it and figure out how to make it work in a practical way. It might be the solution to the problem you’ve been working on, or it might be the source of an entirely new and unexpected creative endeavor.
You can hear the interview with John Frame at The Story — his is the second part of that particular show.
ARB — 14 Oct. 2012
I came across this useful infographic from MBAProgramInfo.com, which analyzes the effect of outsourcing on the U.S. jobs picture (this image is reduced in size — click on the image to link through to the original and examine it in full size):
AB — 30 August 2011
Fascinating cartoon from xkcd. Think he really did this? Would it work? He doesn’t say whether the effect works with objects farther away, such as the moon. Probably not. (The full image doesn’t fit here — click through to see the original.)
AB — 22 August 2011
I’m interested in infographics in themselves as tools for communication, but this one from Community 102 also has some useful information about silencing Internet trolls (click on the image below to see the original at full size):
AB — 13 August 2011
Smithsonian.com recently started a new “Department of Innovation” blog to “track all things innovative.” However, Michelle Malkin rightly notes that the logo used on the blog represents a non-functional set of three gears.
Maybe this is an unintentional admission of the organizational gridlock that often throttles innovation!
AB — 8 August 2011
On the Cisco blog on July 15, 2011, Dave Evans, Cisco’s Chief Futurist in their Innovations Practice, posted the following infographic about the Internet of Things, which I’ve been writing about for a few years — see “Developing the Internet of Things and a Smarter Planet” and “Is an ‘Energy Internet’ Emerging?,” which touches on similar idea.
Click on this image to link through to the full-size original:
I’m as much interested in the infographic as a method for the visual presentation of information as I am about the particular content of any infographic — in examining any of these presentations, I think it’s important to understand the data sources and to recognize that these graphics are simplifications of research that is often quite complicated.
I notice that author of this graphic says that by the end of 2011, “20 typical households will generate more Internet traffic than the entire Internet in 2008.” While the denizens of Casa Bredenberg no doubt generate a lot of traffic as Internet users, I doubt whether the objects in our house are right now generating 5 percent as much traffic as the 2008 Internet. Maybe if Progress Energy eventually gets its smart-grid rollout going …
AB — 18 July 2011