On being creatively prolific.

I have just been hearing Howard Goodall, the composer who is doing a series for the BBC on the history of music, discussing Mozart, and, in particular, homing in on how very prolific Mozart was in the last few years of his life. It seems he was so prolific that it would have been virtually a full-time job just writing the music down never mind composing it as well. Goodall was full of admiration for this feat of creativity, and thought it a part of Mozart’s genius.

Some time ago I heard something similar from a short story writer: R.K.Naryan. Naryan spoke of how, when he got up in the morning, he would go and open his curtains and look out onto the street below, and he would just see stories everywhere; every person, every event, every thing just inspired a story and they came flooding into his head. At the time I was working at fiction writing myself, and I was mightily envious of Naryans effortless creativity.

However, I have since encountered the phenomenon myself and so have been able to see the reality of what is going on.

A number of years ago I took up photography. I admired and was influenced by some of the ‘great’ photographers, my particular favourite being Sebastio Salgado. So I went down the usual route of ‘learning’ what made a good photo and trying to develop my eye and technique etc. In a very short time I found I could not go out of my house without seeing pictures everywhere. It was almost as though my eyes had become cameras and could only see in pictures.

I instantly reacted against this. It felt wrong, felt as though my mind was running out of control, felt obsessive. I would liken it to a car engine that won’t idle: when you put the car out of gear the engine races – my mind had become a racing engine, and that couldn’t be good. I stopped taking photos then until I could find a way of taking photos that did not result in this thing happening to my mind.

So I hear Goodall talking of how prolific Mozart was in his later years I hear him telling me about someone who was sick, whose mind was racing and he could not stop it.

One reason this happens is that one is doing something that is too easy. Also, when one is doing a thing according to ‘the rules’, rules of composition, rules of good English, rules of logic, any sort of rules at all: the thing is, machines operate by rules, and if you make your mind operate by rules your are forcing it to operate like a machine and so you are liable to get these ‘machine faults’ developing.

I cannot resist pointing out that science and philosophy, and every other academic subject, is VERY RULEY. That is, there are very strict and well defined rules layed down to cover how one does science and philosophy and all the rest, and if you want to get published you have to stick very strictly to the rules.

Interesting argument, perhaps you’re right about Mozart, perhaps he would ahve liked to try to be more original, but he was concerned with money and so forth, so he only allowed himslef some creativity mixed in with, what I guess you could just, competence. Nothing I’ve ever done creatively or through philosophy ever had a chance of money, or fullfulling anyone’s demands in any other way, so I’ve never pushed myself long enough to do work that was so easy that it became machine like. I laways start with reading that is too diffucult for me, perhaps there is some time wasted in reading words I can’t make sense of, but it’s better than risking wasting time reading words I already understand, I mean would you’d rather listen to simplistic repetitive English all day or a language entirely foreign to you.

I am the same way, once I set myself a goal, I feel as if there are limitless possibilities to fulfill them, as long as I can fiLl in the dots after the fact by an act of will. When projects become overreaching in any way, it usually is someone else close to me that’s kind enough to point out to me, and hence reality rears it’s head through the obsessivness of trying to get on with it at least conceptually.

I find philosophy, in general, quite versatile and open-minded. Scholastic philosophy is more constrained and you do have to follow strict rules, yes. But the essence of philosophy does not lie in having been published. In any case, I don’t believe a scholar should have an authority on ‘philosophy’ just as I don’t believe a priest should have an authority on spirituality.

Speaking personally, I read a lot of children’s fiction/non-fiction. There’s nothing demanding as far as words are concerned, but writing that is aimed at children has to be very concise. So, it’s the ability to express myself concisely that interests me.

That’s interesting, that’s something for me to think about.

They call Mozart a genius, and you call him sick.
You said you had a period of time where you were in a ‘prolific’ mindset in regards to photography.

Maybe Mozart was a genius, and maybe you could have been too.
Maybe instead of treating your photographic inspiration as an illness, you could have just followed through and done something truly brilliant.
You got exhausted, and you stopped. That’s all. That doesn’t make Mozart sick. That just means you couldn’t deal with the rush of inspiration.

I am normally creatively prolific and I recognise the difference between healthy creativity and going into over-drive. The over-drive condition produces repetition and triviality. It is not true cretivity. Also, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, intuition warned me against what was happening to my mind. If you are healthy enough, then your mind reacts against such potentially dangerous activity.

What’s cretivity?

  1. And how do you know it isn’t? O:)

If you have experienced creativity you will know it. And you will know when you are experiencing something which may on the surface appear creative but which is not. Asking, what is creativity, is like a blind person asking a sighted person “what is seeing”.

I despise the prolific. There is no discretion.

It drowns out and discourages all that is special, which is special precisely because it is rare - amongst other things. Patience and reserve allow one to exercise one’s tastes each time one is possessed by inspiration. Personally I do very little that is creative until I am captured by “a beginning” that I can immediately identify as worthy of following, something which flows effortlessly and with significant quality. If I ever find myself forcing it or following something that is not worthy, I desist and forget about it until a good quality improvement and continuation naturally comes to mind - if it ever does - or something else entirely new comes to me.

Any machine-like urge to just “produce” whatever, I am firmly against.
I frequently find myself despairing at all the desperation I experience around me from people who have to think of themselves as famous and rich, else nothing, who produce crap after crap to try and get there exactly because they are nothing. This noise drowns out all that is special until all that is available is crap. And then we are surrounded by crap, which is exactly how I feel in today’s “creative world”. Fuck the prolific. I want to experience the special again.

As far as I’m concerned, what you are talking about is merely getting you out of the frying pan and into the fire. The trap of perfection. The trap of criticising your ideas before they get a chance to grow up and surprise you with qualities you would never have expected. Ideas are like children: you accept them for what they are and allow them to grow, providing merely the healthy environment for growth. Then they will grow into adults that are full of surprises and are capable of taking you to places you would never have dreamt of.

Sounds like that’s gotta take forever.

How old are you? O:)

I think being rich and famous is the garbage heaped on the possibly prolific and those who are not, and it becomes the motif of all subsequent activity.  The prolific is thereby stumped into production of mediocre stuff. And hence begins the vicious circle between a sense of shame for producing crap, or at least substandard stuff, and the need to mask it's quality.  After that, there develops guardedness and guilt over such dishonest activity.

Perhaps increased creative productivity is due to sublimation of sexual desires. Or is Freud out to lunch?

You’re thinking in terms of a product but I’m talking about a process which sheds “products” throughout its growth. The really important thing about creativity is not the product but the human ability to create. The more one is able to do in life, the richer life is.

As to my age…that depends who I’m talking to…you make me feel like Methusela.

Creativity requires you to be in possession of all your marbles. Reading Freud causes you to loose them at a great rate! My advice to anyone who wishes to be creative: don’t read Freud. Be afraid of Freud.

Whats the point of being able to create or do something if you never actually end up doing either? O:)

You’ll never learn to be able to create something without practicing creating things.

Who Says I’m not? O:)