Creativity: Play it naked?


Creativity is in all of us, in one form or another.

How best to bring it out? Taking an idea from thought to expression is often about giving inspiration the chance to strike.

If you know me, you know I like a good spot of serendipity. Very close together t’other day (Monday 3 October 2016, to be precise), I came across three great things about creativity.

Too many organisations make ultimately empty statements about the need to embrace creativity and innovation, argues Neil Morrison. In his latest post, Get innovative, goddamit! Neil floats a compelling theory on why organisations often espouse the virtues of creativity only when times are tough:

“The motivation for making the statement in the first place
is that doing what has always been done is no longer providing what has always
been got. Otherwise, why change?”

But while many organisations make the right noises about creativity and innovation, few take the steps necessary to allow this to happen:

“Creating the environment for people to express and develop
their ideas means creating the environment, not just artificial moments. If we
want to unlock the innate skills and abilities that exist within our
businesses, we’ve got to ask ourselves what closed them off in the first place.”

Asking what closes off innate creative skills is always a very good question. Too many people’s creativity goes untapped. Even when it might make all the difference.

Only it isn’t hard at all


That same day, I finished reading pianist James Rhodes’ excellent (if deeply harrowing) memoir Instrumental. Towards the end, Rhodes blurts out page upon page of great ideas on how to bring the moribund classical music industry kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. The following words from this section – on resistance to potentially life-saving creative solutions to endemic business problems – seem to be coming from exactly the same direction as Neil’s post:

“[I]t is easy to piss and moan, much harder to offer
workable solutions that can bring about change. Only it isn’t hard at

There is a way out of every problem. It might take a change of perspective, a willingness to adapt, a wholesale surrender to new ideas.

Rhodes recognises that to ensure its economic and artistic survival, the classical music world must change radically. He has the ridigity of the classical music establishment squarely in his sights:

“My solution? Fuck the lot of them. Play what you want,
where you want, how you want and to whom you want. Do it naked, do it wearing
jeans, do it cross dressing. Do it at midnight or 3pm. Do it in bars and pubs,
halls and theatres. Do it for free. Do it for charity. Do it in schools. Make
it inclusive, accessible, respectful, authentic. Give it back to whom it
belongs. […] Don’t let a few geriatric, inbred morons dictate how this
immortal, incredibly wonderful, God-given music should be presented. We’re
bigger than that. God knows, the music is too.”

Creativity is there in all of us, in one form or another. Everyone has at least the potential to dream up a new idea. We’re bigger than that.

How to bring it out? Creativity is about both the idea and its execution. You not only have to have the idea, you must be able to see it through.

Between thought and expression


Rare is the idea that makes it through to its end form in the way it first came to you. This is beautifully put by Lou Reed in the Velvet Underground song Some Kind of Love:*

“Between thought and expression
lies a lifetime.”

My friend Helen Reynolds
has found a direct route from thought to expression. I love the wit and unvarnished simplicity of her cartoons, collected in the book Work It Out With A Pencil. In her cartoons, Helen lets ideas flow directly into the world, via paper and pencil. On Monday, I asked Helen about her creative process. Here’s what she said:

“I make time, usually with breakfast once or twice a week –
turn off music, TV and devices and it’s a treat to myself. I think of ideas and
then doodle them when the concept makes me chuckle or if it explains a truth
that I can’t be arsed to write in words! Unfortunately, inspiration rarely
strikes unless I make it strike.”

Helen’s approach to creativity is remarkably similar to my
own with this blog. Ideas for what I write here come to me all the time, from
things I’ve read, conversations, social media exchanges, songs, films. I launched this silly hobby blog back in 2013 to force myself to capture these ponderings.

Like Helen, I too have to make time for creativity. For me, there’s nothing better than the quiet of an early Saturday morning, strong cup of coffee to hand, letting the ideas that have percolated over the past few days flow out onto the virtual page. I’m doing it right now.

There’s no problem that can’t be solved. There’s no person that is incapable of creativity. Inspiration is all around us. But inspiration rarely strikes unless you make it strike.

Give it a go.

Play it naked.

Update 1 (Saturday 8 October 2016): Frying bacon for veganism

I’m delighted to report that the great Simon Heath has responded to this post with a video showing a truly excellent five-minute talk
on creativity

he gave at #DisruptHR in London back in June. This is so worth your time – Simon touches on many similar themes to this post, but he expresses them so much more eloquently than I could hope to. He also manages to keep up with his rapidly changing slide deck, the contents of which are by no means Star Wars-lite! All this, plus the following ingenious phrase:

“Designing for creativity is like frying bacon for veganism.”

Note on naked piano player pics

I make no claim whatsoever to the copyright of the two wonderful images of Monty Python’s Terry Jones at the top of this post (one is from here, t’other is from here). The most beautiful thing I have seen this week was Michael Palin presenting Jones with a Bafta Cymru award
for his outstanding contribution

to film and TV. Jones was there to accept it, despite his terrible suffering from “Primary Progressive Aphasia, a variant of Frontotemporal Dementia”. The most beautiful words I’ve read this week were Palin’s assurance that “the Pythons will rally round” Jones in his time of need. Jones’ illness is an impossibly cruel fate for a gent of such wit, creativity and imagination. I was struck by the serendipity of reading James Rhodes’ exhortation to “play it naked” just as such sad news was breaking about mayhap the world’s foremost naked piano player.


* Dig, if you will, the Velvet Underground performing Some Kind of Love, just for you:

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