Roger von Oech

Creative Think

What I Post About:

AddThis Feed Button

« It's Time to Think Like A Fool! | Main | Niftiest Logo I've Seen in a While »



Develope a sophisticated eye, but learn to see like a child


Everything in moderation - including moderation.


I wouldn't call this a paradox, more of a way of looking at things differently, which has definitely helped me noodle through some problems:

“… We mold clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that makes the vessel useful. We fashion wood for a house, but it is the emptiness inside that makes it livable. We work with the substantial, but it is the emptiness that we use.” – Lao Tzu


To create, a person must

* Have knowledge but forget the knowledge;

Not true - example: a symphony composer can be enormously creative - example: the creative use of dissonance without forgetting for a moment the rules that govern harmony or the structural conventions which bound the genre.

* See unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder;

Not true, crazy people have left an enormous legacy of valued creative work - Captain Beefheart had not a stable mind.

* Work hard but spend time doing nothing;
Not true, often creative works of esteem come from folks who actually practice their craft only on rare occasion - example: J.D. Salinger

* Create many ideas yet most of them are useless;
True - but hardly a paradox. A pile of waste accumulates beside many a worker, creative and non-creative alike.

* Look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different;
True - but again, not in the least paradoxical. Everyone looks at the things everyone looks at. A creative work is rarely actually creative in the sense that it arises from a view or sensation never before extant but rather typically is creative in the sense of presenting that view or sensation in a context which is surprising to many in the audience. This is not a paradox of seeing that which cannot be seen, but rather the act of successfully directing the attention of the audience to look at the commonplace with juxtaposed perspective.

* Desire success but learn how to fail;
WTF? - Everyone desires success, everyone fails. This does not apply only to left-handed people, or only to those we choose to call "creative". People who don't get back up off their ass after falling down don't get much done... where is the paradox in that fact of life?

* Be persistent but not stubborn; and,
This statement means nothing. One man's persistence in another man's bull-headed refusal to accept reality. Moreover, creative people are often superbly stubborn. Example: Einstein's later years devoted to working [and failing] to produce a unified field theory which would collapse the uncertainty principal... was that persistence or a bull-headed refusal to accept reality? Whichever you choose, this work was in fact "creative".

* Listen to experts but know how to disregard them.
Well, as regards this list, the second half at least is in my opinion good advice.


Secret by Wang Wei (699-761)

No. It is not enough to despise the world.
It is not enough to live one’s life as though
Riches and power were nothings. They are not.

But to grasp the world, to grasp and feel it grow
Great in one’s grasp is likewise not enough

The secret is to grasp it, and let go


For good ideas to come, you must be in control and yet not in control. You must try hard yet hardly try.


One must enter the state of effortless effort.


Famous negotiator Herb Cohen said you must never enter a negotiation you're not prepared to walk away from. It's the same with creativity. You must want it to happen badly yet not be too concerned if it doesn't happen at all.


One has to fall in love with and believe in -completely and unreservedly - what one is working on. And yet, in order to improve it, one must see all its faults; and in some ways, even despise it. Indeed, to carry it one step further, one must even fall in love with its very faults - because often, that is where the true gold is.


The most valuable gem I got from my undergraduate, masters, and doctoral studies in music composition was this: The goal of all artistic study is to end up where you began, creating intuitively, but with an educated and informed intuition.


No offense, dude, but none of these are paradoxes.

M. Simon

Mild schizophrenia is a powerful adjunct to creativity.


Never assume. Always anticipate.

Jeffrey Phillips

To create a person must reject conventions yet work within them

Mencken's Ghost

None of these "paradoxes" are truly paradoxical, but all of them are on the level of a Tony Robbins video, that is, trite. Thanks for the free samples, though. I'd hate to spend money on such thinkertoys.

amba (Annie Gottlieb)

To me, the biggest paradox of creativity is that your self desires the thrill of and the credit for having created, but it is not your self that creates. The self is actually a hindrance that has to be bribed, conned, and finally browbeaten into getting out of the way.

(I am deliberately not using the cliché-word "ego." "Self" is supposed to be something deeper and truer, but I don't quite buy that. It's still too bounded and too "me" for whatever it is that creates.)

Paul Ciotti

Spend a lot of time walking around watching the squrrels run down utility lines.

Don't have sex when you're working on something new lest you leave the best part of your plan in bed (a nod to Hemingway here).

Wang Fa

Digest good Paradoxes,but then inevidably transform them into shit!

Janice Masters, The Everyday Joy Coach

Same as condition for a miracle (=Creativity! right? Follow your preference at the same time you surrender to what is. That creates the condition for emergence.


The most creative people are business people trying everyday to keep the thing afloat

The comments to this entry are closed.