Thursday, August 27, 2009

Create something unexpected!

I hope you'll create something unexpected. Not formulaic — although you might use formulas along the way. Not predictable — although it might seem obvious and inevitable after the fact. And not based on what you think your audience wants — although there's nothing wrong with seeking out audience feedback and taking it to heart.

Something unexpected. But I'm not asking you to surprise or shock people. Think of the artists who strive with all their might to surprise and shock. They're as boring as anyone. Am I right? After the first or second roadside explosion, it's obvious what they're trying to do. Even when they succeed in catching you off guard, it only cuts your flesh; it doesn't stir your soul. So don't make white bread stuffed with the occasional jalapeno. That's not inventive cooking; it's just culinary abuse.

And let me be clear, I'm not asking you to do things randomly. You might happen to know that I'm fond of using random techniques, but randomness is never the point of any creation. Randomness is mathematically the same as noise, and noise is exactly as meaningful as silence. Randomness is a means to an end, a quick way to take dimensions out of play, to push attention to other dimensions that carry the real message.

I hope you will create something that can't be expected, something so freshly invented that no one ever had a chance to imagine it before. Something that makes people say "Wow! Where did that come from?" And you might have to honestly answer, if pressed, "Don't ask me. I'm just the artist."

Be willing to create something that might not quite make sense, something that you might not be able to fully explain or defend, something that might be misunderstood or even ridiculed. Go out on a limb and trust your aesthetic senses when they tell you it's right.

And you get the "Unexpected" gold medal if you create something so one-of-a-kind that you can't repeat the feat even if someone is willing to pay you good money.

This is what happens when you find a perfect and powerful expression of who you are in one completely transparent moment. Paradoxically, this ultimate creative moment permanently changes you, heals you, transforms you. Remember Heisenberg's principle: he showed that you fundamentally can't observe certain things without changing them. It's as though your act of asking who won the ball game changes the score and possibly changes the outcome of the game. It doesn't seem to make sense, but that's the way it works. You can't just be a spectator; you are inescapably in the game.

Having created from the depths of your soul, you are already a different person from the one who performed that daring creative act. You can't create again; you can only create anew.

So create something unexpected. Something that falls to pieces when we try in vain to analyze it, that inexplicably changes form when we try to photocopy it. Create something that fundamentally can't be reduced to simple prime factors, because its recipe includes that unique irrational number that is you.

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