Last time I was talking about getting a cat, this week I'm talking about killing them - and they say a week is a long time in politics.
I've Been Around The World
I'm not sure about politics but since I last wrote the article extolling the virtues of cat ownership (in certain circumstances) I've made four journeys by plane, several train rides and used numerous taxis. Let me tell you if you have any romantic notions about jetting around the world then a couple of weeks of business travel will drain all the joy out of both flying and staying in hotels. I've been to some of the most visited cities on this planet, but the most I can tell you about those places is what the airport and hotel room I stayed in is like.
The best part of travelling is the people you get to meet. Working in the creative world gives you endless moments of joy as they share their stories with you. So while I may bemoan the amount of travelling I've done (and the cold I picked up in one of the jet propelled germ factories I flew on) I'm still glad I took the trip.
Year Of The Cat
So to the title of this week's missive. Am I actually condoning the killing of our feline friends? Of course not, I'm playing with a saying that suggests if one takes the course of action I am about to suggest then cats might die!
For a creative, inspiration is the source of their power, when it flows then hallelujah but when inspiration seems to have deserted us, then we struggle. Some of us think it's the end; we've written our last song, played our last riff, we may as well give up we think. It rarely is the case, but it's still not a nice place to be.
While spending time with some German friends this week, while talking about creativity one word came up repeatedly. The word was curiosity.
As we spoke more, I asked them how important curiosity is to their creative process, and they said that it is essential. It was my friend Till who said: "when you've run out of inspiration then use curiosity to find it again."
I'd never thought of this before, the idea of letting my curious side loose as my two-year-old daughter does.
We were recently in the supermarket, and as we walked down an aisle she said to me "What's this?" I answered. We moved on to the next thing in the chiller she asked me again, and again, and again. She must have asked me what things were about 30 times in the space of a minute. I answered her question every time; she was genuinely curious to learn. I felt like the man in the Borat cheese scene.
Are we as inquisitive as my daughter? Or have we learned everything we need to know? Or are we too busy to learn?
We would have no space travel if someone hadn't thought, what is that and how can I walk on it as they gazed at the moon. One of my favourite silly jokes is "Who were the first people not to fly? The Wrong brothers!" But had the Wright brothers not looked at birds in flight and thought about how a man could fly then I'd have taken far longer to get around the world this week.
Which leads me back to the travelling I did this week.
If there is anything I struggle with it is the need to have to learn new things. I've been incredibly busy for the last few weeks (put your violin away), and I need to find the time to learn a new software applications and new equipment. Perhaps you are like me and you think the best thing to do is to dive in and try and figure something out rather than read the manual. The trouble with this approach is you might figure out the basics but you may miss out on so much potential the tool has to offer. I'm convinced their are so many itinerant DAW and plug-in owners is because they don't know how to use them properly, so when they hit a roadblock they simply give up and try something else. Let's not confuse inquisition with laziness or shoddy thinking - sometimes we do have to dive in an explore but in the long run I think the best thing is to supplement our exploration with learning - they are not mutually exclusive.
I realised that all this time spent in the air, or in the airport I could use to watch some video tutorials - I counted up that I had about 8 hours spare which I could either waste or use wisely.
The night before I travelled I loaded up my MacBook with the tutorials and watched an entire series of one and got halfway through the second set.
That time of learning has sparked my curiosity and given me new skills and also new ideas of how I can use the tools - I feel inspired! Bingo!
Blinded Me With Science
You may have a synth you need to learn or a technique for playing your guitar. You may (as I do) try to struggle along using just 10% of all the stuff you own because you don't have the time to learn it. Let me encourage you to make the time; you don't have to take a plane ride to do it.
Open up the stuff you have and take the time to see what happens when you start exploring.
Some of the most used techniques in modern music production started life as experiments as someone saying "I wonder what will happen if I do this?"
If Google has taught us anything, it is that omniscience is overrated, if you don't know what the word means then Google it! We've come to think we can know anything in an instant, but acquiring facts is not the same as learning even worse it's not the same as exploring. You might know how Champagne is made, the grapes they use (Pinot Noir) but until you taste it then you have not experienced what it is. Understanding the chemical properties of water is not the same as taking a bath and knowing how a vintage synth makes sound is not the same as playing one.
I still do mental arithmetic in my head even though I can do it on my phone; I like to try and beat the person on the checkout to the total and the change they need to give me. It's a silly way I use to stay sharp.
I was told the easy way to determine the sex of a person was to give them a machine that would cure world poverty. Apparently, the women would share it with the world and for the good of humanity; the men would take the back off to see how it worked. It's a silly joke, but it illustrates how inquisitive some people are, irrespective of gender. Perhaps we all need to take the back off stuff, to see how things work?
Are you stuck for inspiration right now?
They say that curiosity killed the cat*, but it's more likely that it will resurrect your creativity.
*Even this saying got the better of my curiosity so I did the research, do the same.