jumping back into the creative process (and some other random thoughts from conversations with creators)

I’m jumping back into the creative process, working on some drum and piano parts for a collection of songs with a friend. It’s cool to try and import what I’ve learned from studying creativity into my own process. Today I was working with my friend on some piano parts for a song and I felt “stuck”; at that point, I immediately knew what things I could try to proceed through this impasse, namely set it aside for a bit and let it marinate in my mind (incubation), and also listen to a bunch of artists with similar sounds (inspiration, prepared mind) to get ideas for parts. I chatted with him about how my research informed my practice, and he shared his thoughts about how he got inspiration for his songs: watching contemporary dance performances. So interesting! I didn’t go into too much detail in talking about it with him, but it is very intriguing to consider these cross-modal inspirations (not just cross-domain) from visual movements to musical inspirations.

On a related note, I had another insight while talking with an animator/visual artist and a writer at a dinner this past weekend. The writer shared how she found it helpful to record herself saying out various ideas for ads and slogans (she does freelance copywriting and ad work) to keep inspiration going and avoid getting stuck in a perfectionist rut, and I realized that this practice was isomorphic to the practice of sketching and doodling in the visual arts and design, the practice of rapid prototyping in engineering and product design, and the practice of recording little jingles here and there in musical composition. The common principle is having a medium of representation for ideation where ideas are unformed and unfinalized, which allows for more “distance” between the idea and the creator and space to grow and interact with other idea bits to generate interesting discoveries.

At the end of that conversation I was intrigued by the possibility of importing this principle into my research. It strikes me that, perhaps more so than in some other creative professions, research ideas are expensive to try, and creatives could benefit from having some medium of representation closely analogous to sketching/recording/prototyping to try out and play with various research ideas. I will chew on that for a bit and see what I come up with. I think there is something there in terms of either (a) finding a tool someone has come up with for serving this function, or (b) designing such a tool to support scientific creativity.


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