The American artist Jasper Johns was once asked what was involved in the creative process: “It’s simple," he replied. "You just take something, and then you do something to it, and then you do something else to it. Keep doing this and pretty soon you’ve got something.”
This idea is reflected in one of my all-time favorite print ads, which was created in the 1960s by Charles Piccirillo to promote National Library Week. The headline consisted of the alphabet in lower case letters like so:
It was followed by this copy:
“At your local library they have these arranged in ways that can make you cry giggle, love, hate, wonder, ponder, and understand.
It’s astonishing to see what these twenty-six little marks can do. In Shakespeare’s hands they became Hamlet. Mark Twain wound them into Huckleberry Finn. James Joyce twisted them into Ulysses. Gibbon pounded them into The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. John Milton shaped them into Paradise Lost.”
The ad went to to extol the virtues of reading and mention that good books are available at your library. There are several messages here, but to me the most important is that that creative ideas come from manipulating your resources — no matter how few and simple they are.
With this outlook, we try different approaches, first one, then another, often not getting anywhere. So, what we’re talking about is attitude of experimenting and trying different approaches, first one and then another. You rearrange things and turn them upside down. You may ask some “what if?” questions and look for hidden analogies. You might even challenge the rules. And, as a result of this playing around, you just might come up with a workable new idea.
Question: What basic resources at your disposal can you manipulate into something new?