The older I get the more accepting I become of myself, especially in regards to my weaknesses. The two weaknesses or rather personality traits are my impatience, and laziness. Coupling these traits with my desire to be a versatile musician and a highly regarded composer/lyricist, I’m stuck with a stamp on my forehead labeled ‘oxymoron’. Or, if a dad who is also a property developer from the eastern suburbs of NSW was in charge of carving the stamp, ‘Millennial’. However, instead of wasting my time feeling sorry for myself for not being motivated enough I’m going to try and channel that energy (the microscopic amount that it is) into something I can work with. Although the famous quote by Bill Gates stating “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” may be misquoted, I stand by this idea and utilise it in arguing that you don’t have to be crazy motivated ALL THE TIME in order to have a successful and fulfilling career (Schakohl, 2019; Tank, 2021) . In order to delve into how I can channel these seemingly negative traits into supportive branches, I’ve assembled possible paths to stay curious and engaged. I’ll be utilising my latest project as the context of these exercises in order to elaborate further on existing ideas I’ve had, and possibly produce new ideas and connections.
Figure 1. Left: Esperanza Spalding and to the Right: Emily (Frank, 2016).
Since completing my honours thesis I have been fascinated by the idea of ‘creative autonomy’, and how it can be asserted during the creative process. For the thesis I paralleled that idea with a case study of Esperanza Spalding and how she used her alter ego to influence her creative process from the beginning stages of composing, to the later stages of performing (Homeh, 2021). The alter ego both limited her since it provided a framework to work within, but also freed her from external and internal influences (Homeh, 2021). However, presently completing my Masters I am faced with working on how I can assert my own creative autonomy. An exercise called the ‘door activity’ asks its participants to look behind their chosen door and dig deeper into what they find. This activity served to broaden my creative potential, and made me question why I decided to dig deeper into this idea of creative autonomy in the first place. I came up with 3 reasons:
By using the alter ego to assert my creative autonomy I can constantly regenerate similar to how David Bowie did throughout his career (Leorne, 2015).
Free from blame
The alter ego is a somewhat separate entity to me and although I may be the puppeteer, they are not me personally.
I highly value the role of authenticity during the creative process, and it was this value that led me to conclude on the idea that autonomy plays a huge role in creating genuine authentic art. Through further research and critical thinking, there is a lot of potential in having these views challenged and re-molded. By being challenged, the intention of my art making will develop and grow over time, and I look forward to my own and its evolution.
By trying to understand the reasons behind my ideas, I was able to have a better understanding of my own thinking patterns. I have found that I tend to digress into new ideas by trying to connect them to old ones. This pattern of thinking is synonymous with theories of learning (Anderson et al. 2001). However, I know I need to change this pattern slightly in order to accommodate for new ideas; be creative. Runco’s (2014) work on creativity suggests that to have any sort of insight one must sometimes break down old ideas and re-construct new ones in order to connect information differently and create new pathways of creative thinking. I realised that to do this I needed to start reading, watching, and listening to a lot more, and then reflecting on these experiences.
To assist on my quest to be more curious and thus more creative I have thought of several activities I could implement.
Watch a documentary and although that may be arguing with sources, question its validity.
Read a chapter of philosophy and reflect on it before proceeding to read any of it further. A chapter is actually too much, read 2 sentences and then reflect.
Discuss any questions/theories/creative ideas with someone you can trust to not judge you personally. They can laugh at your questions/theories/creative ideas, but you know it's from a place of love. Also, maybe just learn to take it on the chin. We all die in the end, something you say now means nothing in the grand scheme of things. That got dark real quick.
Get that said someone to tell you the end of a story from their life and see if you can imagine the beginning of it. Or, get them to tell you the end of the story and see if you can imagine how it ends.
Play two truths, one lie.
See if there are any kids in the family you can babysit and pick their brains. They can consume and mold information so quickly, and into such weird and wonderful shapes (Skonstrom, 2015). They are also the best at asking a million and one questions, and they are also great at trying to figure out the answers to these questions. So, instead of answering them with what you already know, ask them why they think the sky is blue.
When meeting new people, ask more questions about their job. If they don’t have any good answers, ditch them.
When talking to other musicians, ask about their practice.
Practice being open minded - you can do this by going out of your way to find views that are against your own values and beliefs whether that be political or social.
Don’t just scroll when you have free time. It uses up more brain power than you think. Just sit and reflect on what the day has been so far. You can start by not taking your phone to the bathroom.
Listen to music and only listen to music.
I’m sure I’ll think of more, but that will do for now.
What’s the point?
In order to be a critical thinker and ultimately be the most creative I can be, I need to continue to challenge my pre-established ideas, beliefs and values. Curiosity will be a helpful tool in creating new patterns of thinking, and through a combination of consuming and reflecting on new and old information I will challenge myself and help evolve my creative ideas. Recently I looked back over philosopher Susan Sontag’s work and her ideas on the role of art. Her essay ‘Against Interpretation’ argues for art not to be subjected to criticism that attempts to show “what it means” but rather “how it is what it is, even that it is what is it” (Sontag, 2013, p. 10). This essay has challenged my views on the role of art from the beginning; at first I disagreed, then I agreed, then I was 50/50, and now I don’t really know how I feel about it. However, I think that the more I delve into this idea of creative autonomy and the use of the alter ego, the more her ideas will function to assist in my own understanding. My beliefs when it comes to the role of art might change over time, but my value in remaining critical will withstand throughout my career.
Go gentle into that wormhole
I look forward to checking off some of the items from the curiosity checklist, and I hope it doesn’t drive me mad, or my partner for that matter. Boredom is easily felt when my attention span has been trimmed to about 5 seconds since scrolling through feeds on social media platforms have become a part of the daily routine. I hope that by actively trying to be more curious I will find some of that mental and physical energy I had as a child.
Anderson, W.L., Bloom, S. B., Krathwohl, R, D. (2001). A taxonomy of learning, teaching, and assessing: a revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. Longman. New York.
Frank, A. (2016, March 8). Esperanza Spalding: Insubordinate by Nature. Pitchfork. Retrieved from https://pitchfork.com/features/interview/9830-esperanza-spalding-insubordinate-by-nature/
Homeh, S. (2021). Esperanza Spalding - creative autonomy: The freedom of living through your alter ego [Honours thesis, University of New South Wales]. https://www.sarahhomeh.com/post/honours-thesis-esperanza-spalding-creative-autonomy
Lerone, A. (2015). Dear Dr. Freud - David Bowie Hits the Couch. In E. Devereux, E. Dillane & M. Power (Eds). David Bowie: Critical perspectives (pp. 111- 127). Taylor & Francis Group.
Psihoyos, L. (Director). (2018). The game changers [Film]. Netflix.
Runco, A. M. (2014). Creativity: Theories and themes: Research, development, and practice. Elsevier Science & Technology.
Schakohl, T. (2019, October 24). FACT CHECK: Did Bill Gates Say, ‘I Choose A Lazy Person To Do A Hard Job’?. Check Your Facts. Retrieved from https://checkyourfact.com/2019/10/24/fact-check-bill-gates-microsoft-lazy-person-hard-job-easy-way/
Sontag, S. (2013). Against Interpretation and other Essays. Penguin Books Limited.
Shonstrom, E. (2015). Wild curiosity: How to unleash creativity and encourage lifelong wondering. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Tank, A. (2021). Bill Gates Says Lazy People Make the Best Employees. But Is Your Laziness Actually Masking a Deeper Issue?. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/376746