The Creativity Stew Pot


“Often ideas come from two things coming together that haven’t come together before. ('If a person bitten by a werewolf turns into a wolf what would happen if a goldfish was bitten by a werewolf? What would happen if a chair was bitten by a werewolf?')”
-Neil Gaiman

I frequently think of the creative part of my brain as a huge pot of minestrone soup. Or maybe a gumbo. Some kind of big primordial soup or stew that you throw all kinds of miscellaneous ingredients into, stir them together, and hope that they generate something that tastes good.

As each ingredient lands in the steaming pot, it disintegrates into its components and mixes with the stew. Then, each time you dip a ladle into the pot, you pull out a random assortment of ingredients all mashed together. Every now and then, you end up with a ladle full of something absolutely delicious - a combination of ingredients that you would never have put together deliberately.

For example, one of the routines I was performing in Hamburg involved a standard card trick, combined with language skills I learned in high school Chinese class, plus mannerisms inspired by a friend I used to know at university, and a sardonic attitude I first saw used by a performer in Boston.

Each of those ingredients had floated around in the stew pot in my brain for years, before eventually merging together into a routine that was recently seen by about 40,000 people over the course of four months.

The thing about the stew pot though, is that the more different ingredients you put into it, the more likely you are to get interesting combinations out of it. This is part of the reason why, at the time of writing, I'm using my last 10 days in Germany to see as many different shows and venues as I possibly can.

Hence also why I frequently try (and occasionally succeed) to feed my brain with unusual things. Everything that you see and experience goes into the stew pot. Shows, performances, books, films, foods, flavours, smells, sounds, feelings, sensations, ideas, emotions, things people say, and everything else that enters your head.

All of them go in to the pot, mix around, and have the potential to combine into something remarkable. Or something awful. Either way it'll be more interesting than if you just keep the pot full of generic chicken noodles.


(Image by Flickr user whitneyinchicago, licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0)



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