Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Idiotic Hat Guide to Unleashing Your Creativity

There is a minor industry in self-improvement books, encouraging you to get in touch with your frustrated inner tax exile, and to unleash the creative dynamo that is the Real You. The underlying dodgy thesis (there's always an underlying dodgy thesis) is nearly always the same one, and it's this:

Kids are born creative and free, and this innate joy is squeezed out of them by a sequence of grim, grey tyrants, of whom the most egregious and grimly grey is the schoolteacher. "Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!"

This is such bollocks, it's hard to know where to begin. It's as if the writers of these books had never been to primary school, had never encountered other children, and had been cruelly denied those most enticing of toys -- pencils, paints, and paper -- at home.

I can feel a potential Christmas stocking-filler blockbuster coming on here ("Is It Just Me, Or Are Most Kids Tedious?" or perhaps "Ignore Your Creativity And Get Back To Work!") so I'll keep this brief. It is my observation that most children are born vicious dullards who, without schooling, would torment each other into an early grave. The few exceptions -- the bright, the creative, the open-minded, the talented -- quickly learn to go to ground until it's safe to come out again later in life.

Trust me, I know. As a moderately talented child, I watched in horror as less wary contemporaries had their "show-off" tendencies relentlessly hacked down to playground level, not by our wonderful and encouraging teachers but by our predatory peers, whose "creativity" expressed itself in ensuring that everyone who was not "normal" was policed into dull, watchful conformity. Few of these monsters went on to become teachers, though some do seem to have gone on to careers as stand up comedians.

So, here is my ten point path to fulfilment through creativity:

1. Stop being so dull. Take a walk on the wild side, and see whether it's for you. Ideally, why not try being gay, or left-handed? It seems to work for a lot of artists.

2. Stop worrying about what people might think about you. Instead, find out what they actually do think about you -- probably nothing -- then work ceaselessly at giving them scandalous new things to think about you. See (1).

3. Self-reinvention is the name of the game. Don't like who you are? Neither do we. Stop it. Become someone more interesting. It's easier than you think, see (2).

4. Wear an idiotic hat.

5. Follow your dream. Find out where it goes during the day. Be there waiting for it next time, introduce yourself, and buy it a drink.

6. Think outside the box. Think inside the box. Think round the back of the box. Imagine you are a box. Make a box, and put it inside a box. Learn to box on Boxing Day. When the word "box" finally becomes absurd through repetition, you will have escaped the prison-house of language, and will briefly be outside the word "box", if not the actual box. Does that feel good, or bad?

7. Steal other people's work and ideas shamelessly. Try them on for size. Art is a charity shop.

8. Remember that it is easier to buy a book about creativity, and fund someone else's lifestyle, than it is to read that book. And it is easier to read about writing, than actually to write oneself. A writer is a person who writes. But preferably not a book about how to write.

9. Be positive. Work hard. Stick at it. Work 9 to 5, every weekday. Bring as much of yourself to it as you can. Society depends on your contribution: be proud of that. This is your proper job I'm talking about, dreamer, not some idle fantasy of becoming an artist.

10. Be nice to your kids, and give them plenty of paints, pencils and paper. Be unstinting in your praise and encouragement of their efforts, no matter how dull. Then, just maybe, they'll stop bullying that funny little kid who is so good at drawing, and realise just how freakin' awesome he or she really is. And, one day, maybe they'll even buy one of his pictures to hang on their wall!

No comments: