Serious Creativity

There are two words guaranteed to destroy even the most energetic creative brainstorming session. Two words guaranteed to make idea generation impossible. Two words that, if uttered (or merely thought), guarantee that whatever it is you do will be complete and utter crap. No joke. No exaggeration. No exceptions.

These words:

Be Serious.

Seriousness has no place in the creative process. It is an idea killer. It is an energy- and enthusiasm-sucking black hole. It (and its partner in crime, Practicality) is the most evil, insulting, and destructive way of saying “No.”

When someone tells you to be serious, here’s what they’re really saying:
  • I am scared.

  • I feel challenged by the fact that you have ideas that I don’t understand and I can’t be bothered to think about how they might be relevant.

  • I don’t like your idea, or you, but I have nothing productive of my own to add to the discussion, so I think I’ll just shut you down.

  • Your enthusiasm makes me feel inferior.

  • Wow, I wish I could come up with something like that.

  • What will other people think?

  • I’m threatened by things that aren’t immediately quantifiable.

  • I feel safer in the Real World.

  • You’re making me look bad.

  • You’re weird.

  • I don’t get it.

  • I am stupid.

  • I don’t belong here.

Serious, practical, professional, realistic, objective, unimaginative, boring, hardheaded, worthless, static, uninspired, dead.

Seriousness has no place in the creative process.

Ban the word from all brainstorming sessions. And ban people who insist on saying it from the creative part of whatever it is you’re doing.

Bring them back in—if you must—when you start talking finances.

iPhone Experimental Film Hour

Two new and odd film experiments using an Apple iPhone. Be afraid. Enjoy.

How To Be Happy: Two Simple Steps

Step One:

Step Two: Repeat.

TV On The Radio...I Mean, iPhone

I know I said that I had no desire whatsoever to watch television or movies on a mobile device (I also said the same about taking pictures). I know I said that one of the big reasons I was getting an iPhone was to be able to read eBooks, not watch YouTube. I know I said I was super-excited about browsing the Web in Safari on the iPhone. I know I said (fairly recently) that podcasts are lame.

But after a month-and-a-half of iPhone use, here’s the truth:

The vast majority of the time I actually use the device is spent underground commuting to and from work. Since the iPhone doesn't do any hardcore local storage of email attachments or websites, this means that I am forced to interact only with information that doesn’t rely on having an internet connection. I say forced, but that’s far too strong a word. It’s a little unfortunate, but the restrictions have opened my eyes to a ton of really awesome stuff in the form of television shows, movies, and video podcasts.

I’m still trying to weed out the good from the lame, and find it hard to constantly find new video to fill my 8GB drive (I’ve got a suitable amount of music filling a bit more than half of it), especially since I’m not one to make repeat viewings. When iPhone asks if I want to delete to save space, I say yes. Every time.

I’ve subscribed to one TV show through iTunes (Damages, which I’m finding oddly irresistible), as well as a bunch of podcasts - some of which I end up keeping, and many more that get sent to the Trash after an episode or two. If anyone’s got suggestions for weeding through the thickets of downloadable video content (particularly free and syndicated), I’d love to hear them.

There’s something really interesting about the mobile content world. I don’t exactly know what it is, yet, and it’s still too difficult to navigate, but something big is sure to break pretty soon.

Dunkin Donuts: Revisited

Back in May, I wrote about Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee, and the scourge of businesses following the “Sugary-Sludge-At-The-Bottom” method of product afterthoughtedness. This morning I was eating an Apple Pie from McDonalds (at 2 for $1, not a bad breakfast), and thinking about how many companies add products to their offerings without fully considering how it strengthens their brand or message. I’m not saying that McDonalds has done this with their Apple Pies, and in fact, I think they’re a great addition to the Breakfast menu, as well as the Dessert menu. Versatility is a big part of their thing.

But then we have Dunkin Donuts offering pizza and hot dogs and selling Sobe and Gatorade and Snapple, Subway introducing their own version of pizza-to-order, and some idiot asking Steve Jobs why Apple doesn’t put “Intel Inside” stickers on their gorgeous, sticker-free, computers.

The best restaurants (and the ones that command the highest prices) have the smallest menus. Some don’t even let their customers choose. Whatever the chef wants to cook on Tuesday is what they eat.

I don’t care what focus groups and user-testing tell you what people think they want your business to sell. They don’t actually know. If you listen to enough of them for long enough, you’ll turn your business into a convenience store.

A place where nothing matters but the fact that it is there.

Don’t let brand dilution happen to you. You know better than anyone what your business is and should be. Stay strong. Be honest.

Add value, not menu items.

Elton John Wants To Close The Net

From the Sun Online comes a bunch of drivel from the rather famous but washed up and irrelevant pop star Elton John about why the internet should be closed down.

Let’s take this absurdity point by point.

His Highness says:

The internet has stopped people from going out and being with each other, creating stuff. Instead they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK but it doesn’t bode well for long-term artistic vision.

Right, because there aren’t bands anymore. Everyone is a solo musician like, hmm, oh I know - Elton John? Truth is, very few of these folks sitting at home are making art in a vacuum. They’re all part of devoted communities of artists and fans who share and critique and promote their own and each other’s work. Giving the power to create back to ordinary people is an amazing long-term artistic vision, if you ask me.

It’s just a means to an end.

Yes, Elton. What isn’t?

We’re talking about things that are going to change the world and change the way people listen to music and that’s not going to happen with people blogging on the internet.

It already has changed. The world is different now. Music, especially, is different now. The iPod+iTunes ecosystem, internet radio, mp3 blogs, peer-to-peer file-sharing, and even (shudder) MySpace have completely and utterly transformed the way we experience music. People listen more (maybe not to your records, though, Elton), people share more, and fans are every bit as fanatic as they ever were (arguably moreso). Blogging on the internet has been a huge force in this, without question.

I mean, get out there — communicate.

This point hardly deserves a response. People are communicating in ways never imagined.

Hopefully the next movement in music will tear down the internet.

Hopefully not. The internet is changing the musical landscape from one dominated by major labels and commercial motivations into a world of self-publishing, artistic freedom, and community. The web has enabled this revolution.

Let’s get out in the streets and march and protest instead of sitting at home and blogging.

Marching worked in the 60s. It doesn’t work today. See: The Iraq War

I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span.
Totally. Because it would be so different than it was the previous couple thousand years of human existence prior to the 1990s. Not.

There’s too much technology available.
No there’s not. There is too much fear, uncertainty, and doubt associated with the tools available that their full potential is rarely realized. Some artists are doing incredible things with technology. Others suck. Same thing happened with the electric guitar.

In the early Seventies there were at least ten albums released every week that were fantastic. Now you’re lucky to find ten albums a year of that quality. And there are more albums released each week now than there were then.

Don’t blame the musicians. Blame the labels who refuse to publish anything that isn’t overproduced crap.

Or really, Elton, blame yourself. Did you listen to your last album?