You don’t have to be a Monty Python fan to love this video.

Cleese explains there are two ways of working: what he refers to as “Open” and “Closed” modes. Creativity, it turns out, isn’t possible in the Closed mode.

That’s what we’re in most of the time: the feeling that there’s a lot of work to do, and we’d better get on with it. In Cleese’s words, it’s a purposeful, often humourless state that makes us slightly anxious, impatient, tense, stressed and even manic.

The Open mode, by contrast, is relaxed, expansive, less purposeful. We’re more contemplative, more inclined to humour, and consequently more playful. We’re also more curious, purely for the sake of curiosity, which allows our natural creativity to surface.

As a writer, I found it impossible to come up with ideas by staring at a blank page for hours. Time and time again, ideas would pop into my head when I wasn’t trying: in the shower, on the subway, even while brushing my teeth.

It’s the same with improv. When I go to a show thinking, “I’ve gotta kill it!” I suck. But those shows when I meander onstage with no agenda and nothing planned? That’s when the magic happens.

Cleese goes on to say:

• Creativity is not a talent. It’s a way of operating.

• It has nothing to do with IQ.

• The most creative people are simply good at getting themselves into “an ability to play…not for any immediate practical purpose, but just for enjoyment. Play for its own sake.”

And what is that last part if not a description of improv? No wonder it’s helped me in my writing, and in life.

If you’d like to learn more about getting into the creative mode, I highly recommend The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (thank you, Shari Hollett), and Seth Godin’s Linchpin.

In the meantime, enjoy this video. You’ll be richer for it.

“Imagination is more important than knowlege.” – Albert Einstein



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  1. Finding Ideas. « Sandscriber
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