I have been recording nearly every day this week. Since Wednesday I recorded three new pieces. One new piece each afternoon. It’s a walk to the frontier, to the fog that obscures the mountain. I thought these pieces would take me into foreign territory but they feel truthful, right and beautiful. Prepared guitar, half-speed guitar, anything I can think of. Having a ball. The high of the flow. 

Creativity Versus Consistency

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve Jobs. Viewing the world creatively is supposed to be an asset, even a virtue. Online job boards burst with ads recruiting “idea people” and “out of the box” thinkers. We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed.

It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

Creativity is rejected: Teachers and bosses don’t value out-of-the-box thinking.

I came across that article on Slate after following a number of different links this afternoon. It is worth reading in its entirety. 

I also came across this quote, by Aldous Huxley:

Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life

I find that the two quotes, although ostensibly about different subjects, namely creativity and consistency, are very much connected. Creativity always threatens consistency, and that is why creativity is vaunted but not actually encouraged or liked by the establishment. In an uncertain world we desire consistency, solidity, something we can count on. Certainly the merchants (manufacturers, corporations, including record companies, publishers, etc.) desire consistency. I am not knocking merchants, but that’s where the tension lies. 

Creativity isn’t part of that. New ideas always threaten the status quo, whether they are musical ideas, new ways of seeing and painting, or breakthrough scientific ideas. Many corporations started with one brilliant idea but soon management took over and dictated that one should not evolve the idea, just keep the machine going and do not revolutionize it.

It means accepting that creativity cannot be comfortable at all times. Neither for the person holding the lightning rod, artist or not, nor for everyone else. But, as Huxley correctly noted, consistency is contrary to nature and merely an illusion we like to maintain.

I feel that there is so much more to be said about this subject… consistency is necessary for an artist to be discovered and to be marketed. An artist that does radically different work every year will struggle to get noticed. So that is one of the pitfalls we struggle with: on one hand it is important to strive for a personal and recognizable voice (think Santana, Jeff Beck, Warhol, Picasso, Miles Davis, etc.) but on the other hand this can also turn into empty repetition. Masters, such as Picasso and Miles Davis, seem to create new cycles of work that are each distinctive but also different from their other periods. (Picasso Periods for example)

I don’t know whether this can be taught and feel that it is something each artist has to work/struggle with on their own.