One of the career hazards of being a professional creative is running out of fresh material. Or not having enough fresh stimuli that will lead you to fresh output.
One thing that i’ve found really helps in this regard is constantly having new interests. New things that capture your imagination and make you think about something you’ve never considered before.
A few years into my career I was working on a national brand with a lot of creative freedom. so potentially, anything i could come up with, could get produced.
So i had no limits, right? Wrong.
I found, somewhat to my dismay, that rather than feeling like a limitless universe, my mind felt more like a really big hotel that I walked around in looking for something: ideas.
And after a while i would open a door and go “Oh, I’ve been in this room before! Damn!”. If that makes any sense.
In other words, simply racking my little brain alone wasn’t making it for me. So I actively turned my focus outward.
On more than one occasion i’ve found that following things that caught my fancy led me to have ideas i would never have otherwise had. Sometimes these interests turn into full-blown obsessions. Sometimes not. Sometimes they lead nowhere. But at least I have followed them.
Currently I have three obsessions/interests on the go:
The life and work of director Sam Peckinpah. I am taking this one to the next level. I am hopefully meeting a friend/colleague of Sam’s for dinner in LA in a couple of weeks. I couldn’t be more excited. I have a good feeling about this one. And it obviously has potential since a lot of my work is shooting film.
Professional Irish poker players. I listened to an amazing radio documentary about three Irish poker players. They were real characters and i have learned a lot more about them. And poker. And the reality of being a poker pro. In my head it’s become an HBO series about these guys. Sort of like a downmarket ENTOURAGE with more boozing and funnier lines.
Stephen Sondheim talking about writing musicals. I recently became transfixed by hearing Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim talking about his craft. I don’t have a musical bone in my head but when he talks about it, i feel like i could write a great musical too. No idea why. Not even that interested in plays or musicals. Have since listened to lots and lots of interviews with him.
I like to think, somewhat grandiosely, that fate is leading me to these interests. That’s probably overstating it.
But if nothing else I am utterly convinced it’s imperative that we never stop listening to, and acting on, the mysterious voices in our heads.
Maybe they know something we don’t.