Stories That Inspire Creativity

Mitch JoelPosted by

I’ve always believed that the best in creativity comes from “The Outside.”

So, just where is this place we call The Outside? Do you mean outside of your comfort zone? Do you mean outside of your area of expertise? Do you mean that it’s located in a Twilight Zone of the self? No… not really… but kind of. Here’s my theory (and feel free to poke as many holes in this as you see fit): My best ideas have come from sources that are different, uncommon and typically unknown to me. That about sums it up. How do I tickle that fancy? I check out industries that I know nothing about. I read magazines that have nothing to do with anything that I’ve ever worked on. I watch standup comedians that I have never heard of/never liked. I read books on topics that I’ve had little to no interest of. I try to speak and meet people I would not ordinarily connect with. Pushing the book reading idea even further, I often read books written by women and for women… not for empathy, but to learn. I seriously want to understand how one gender writes about their own gender, to see if I could spot the differences (spoiler alert: there are many). This opening of the eyes… this widening of perspectives is (for me) where more creativity is found.

Is there once place, in particular, where creativity has been found?

For me, the expansive areas of exploring stories that has inspired creativity has come from listening to musicians and authors talk about their process and craft. Even more expansive (is that possible?) has come from authors and musicians in genres that I have had little to no exposure to or interest in. Case in point: I never really liked the band Wilco. They’re huge. They’re popular. I was just never a massive fan of alternative music, and struggled with country music. This alt-country combo that took the band to global audiences was, simply put, never my bag. I was also totally unfamiliar with the author, George Saunders. In looking at Saunders’ bibliography, there is not a title on the lost that rings a bell. So, in short, it’s pretty embarrassing for me – being such a massive fan of music and books – that I don’t really know much/anything about Wilco or George Saunders. 

When you know nothing… pay attention.

This week, GQ published a video on YouTube titled, Jeff Tweedy and George Saunders Have an Epic Conversation. Jeff Tweedy is best known as the singer and guitarist of the band Wilco. He’s impressive. Sixteen albums, a Grammy and most recently, his first solo disc and an autobiography titled, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). Saunders has won so many literary and journalism awards, I’m embarrassed to say that, while his name is familiar to me, I do not know any of his writing. BUT… an “epic conversation”? Hard to pass that up.

But wait, there’s more… 

What unfolds before you in this very open and intimate hour-plus conversation (filmed at Tweedy’s studio) is raw, emotional and… well… very inspiring. As the description on the video promises, these two “go deep on their process. In this expansive interview, Tweedy and Saunders cover everything from the death of loved ones, Tweedy’s new memoir and transitioning from songwriting to prose. Tweedy also does a live performance of his song Bombs Above.” After watching the conversation, I felt those creative sparks… they were everywhere… for different things (and different reasons). And, that’s when it hit me. That’s what I need. Maybe that’s what you need too. Don’t look at your competitor’s work (only). Don’t follow everyone in your industry on Twitter (only). Look outside and go well beyond your mental borders and models. Did this conversation turn me into a Wilco fan or get me to start reading George Saunders’ writing? Nope. But it fed something immensely more important: my need (and maybe your need) to find and uncover better stories. To listen to people talk about their creative process, where ideas comes from, how they are brought to light and – most importantly – how they are edited, mixed and produced. 

There’s much more out there.

I’ll share more conversations like this with you in the future. I hope that some of the conversation on my Six Pixels of Separation Podcast have opened up your minds to different ways of thinking (candidly, that’s why I do it… because those conversations also get me thinking differently).

There are a million stories in the naked city that inspire creativity. Let’s continue to share them….