Art and music intersect as Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis and artist Ed Ruscha talk language, creativity and the magic of Los Angeles.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”
— Advice on (when not to take) advice, from Stephen King. While feedback and input are a critical form of advice, they too can warp our own ideals.

Everyone is struggling with how to balance others’ demands with being productive in the things that matter most. When we asked the creative community how much time they spend on “reactionary work" - aka responding to other people’s emails, calls, etc rather than tending to their own goals - over half said they spent more than 50% of the day on reactionary work.

Proactively blocking out time for creating – rather than just responding – is a key tactic of productive creatives.

Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling on where good ideas come from, in 64 brilliant seconds. (via @brainpicker)

Jack White, on inspiration, creativity, and work ethic:

Inspiration and work ethic — they ride right next to each other…. Not every day you’re gonna wake up and the clouds are gonna part and rays from heaven are gonna come down and you’re gonna write a song from it. Sometimes, you just get in there and just force yourself to work, and maybe something good will come out.

Before we can find the answer — before we can even know the question — we must be immersed in disappointment.

When we tell stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit, when we believed that our problem was impossible. Instead, we skip straight to the breakthrough. We tell the happy ending first.

The danger of this scenario is that the act of feeling frustrated is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer — before we can even know the question — we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach. We need to have wrestled with the problem and lost. Because it’s only after we stop searching that an answer may arrive.

Solutions Come From Unexpected Places

The InnoCentive Web site, started by an Eli Lilly executive in 2001, has shown that solutions to difficult scientific problems (which are posted online, with a monetary reward attached to each challenge) are often solved by people working at the margins of their fields, who were able to think outside the box.

Jonah Lehrer says: “Chemists didn’t solve chemistry problems, they solved molecular biology problems, just as molecular biologists solved chemistry problems. While these people were close enough to understand the challenges, they weren’t so close that their knowledge held them back and caused them to run into the same stumbling blocks as the corporate scientists.”

Being able to step back and view things as an outsider, or from a slightly different angle, seems to promote creativity, Mr. Lehrer says. This is why travel frequently seems to free the imagination, and why the young (who haven’t learned all sorts of rules) are often more innovative than their elders.