In her book about creativity, Twyla Tharp mentions the idea of “the Bubble”. This is when a creative person strips away all the extraneous stuff of their life, and commits themselves to making their art, structuring their life so that they focus exclusively on creation. Tharp gives the example of the writer Phillip Roth, who lived alone in the countryside, producing some of his most acclaimed work in a monastic existence.
This is pretty tempting. You see, I’ve been reading and researching into creativity – what it is, how we use it, and where we get the sense of what we want to do when we are being creative. One of the most interesting books in this area is a book about improv, the drama school thing of “making stuff up”, which is talked about at length by Keith Johnstone in his book “Impro“.
“As I grew up,” begins his book, “everything started getting grey and dull.” Johnstone asks why we change from playful children to locked-down adults, and unpacks that shift from creativity to sober adulthood. He lays a lot of blame at schools, and I have to agree with him; I have never had a good learning experience at a school, college, or university. In fact, what I am doing today (writing, drawing, and making jokes), is stuff I was either told I couldn’t do, or I was actively told not to do.
So I’m pretty mad about my schooling.
If you do any research into art history, it soon becomes apparent that the people who are the best in their field are the people who started young. What our education does is set people up to have an understanding of many fields, but a specialisation in none – great if you’re going to be a manager, but crap if you want to specialise as a tradesman.
Of course, I couldn’t leave school at 14 and train to be an artist. I had a friend who left school at that age and trained to do carpentry for building sites, and he’s doing pretty well for himself. But there was a slot for him to drop into; there was a route for people to become tradesmen, like he did, but not a route for people to stay creative.
I find myself wondering if the current glut of stand-up comics is made of people not suited for the median-style management education, who have both intelligence and creativity but are taught to reject more traditional forms of expression as childish. Without being able to use any other media than language, where else would those people turn but comedy?