On Creativity And Inspiration

I’ve noticed in the past couple weeks how creatively dull this semester has felt, particularly regarding this blog. I had chalked it up to being busy: “I don’t have time to do homework and blog and keep up with the details of life!” Ah, but I still have time that I kill, regularly.

So I started wondering: what gives? What is it about this semester that makes it feel the way it does?

Last week I got my much anticipated copy of On The Edge of the Dark Sea Of Darkness in the mail, and, well, indulged. I permitted myself the luxury of spending a piece of my evening (in reality, four+ hours) ignoring school work and sleep, immersing myself in the story. (I just can’t seem to stay away from something that has such a seriously goofy title, by one of my favorite artists, with a subtitle that reads: “Adventure. Peril. Lost jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree.”)

Then I realized some of what I was missing: inspiration. Creative input, artistic brain food, whatever you want to call it. For me, that is something I generally get from reading excellent books. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been do a lot of reading this semester – reading about management and team building and statistics and building things with CAD. Stuff that is really pretty creative in practice (maybe excepting statistics), but not much that really inspires in textbook form.

I hadn’t been reading for the sake of reading, to enjoy the existence of a good book.

There must be a balance. Too often I try to read things because I think I should, or because it’s useful, it’s related to something I’m interested in or is supplemental to an interesting topic from a class. But, many times, that’s more taxing than it is helpful, and what I need most is a break from trying to remember useful information. I need to take time away from the every day tasks, I need to spend time enjoying and admiring creation in the work of others, to be refreshed and inspired. Shards of reality often are more clearly seen encapsulated in myth than in daily life; the creation, more often than not, reflects glimpses of the Creator.

And it’s inspiring. (I keep using that word. It really does mean what I think it means.)

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Score! (The Good-Books-Super-Cheap Edition)


I happened across a really nice looking copy of Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell today in Goodwill and absolutely *could not* resist picking it up. Only $2.99 for such a tome of excellence in such condition?! But of course! I must have it!

Reading In The New Year

So what else is New Year’s good for? Reading, of course! What better way to spend the hours waiting for the ball to drop (in a completely literal sense, devoid of metaphore) than with some whimsical creation of Roald Dahl? Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator happened to be the cause of my antisocial descent. Having finally read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (due to the great wisdom of library-going siblings) I figured I could do no wrong to continue in the trend. I am now trying to figure out how my childhood could possibly have been complete without Our Hero, Charlie Bucket. Next up, James and the Giant Peach.

Also on the docket for Holiday Break:

The Design of Everyday Things (Donald Norman)

Almost done, actually. Get a good book for your Birthday, and BOOM! The nasty little School monster steals away all your precious reading time. Very interesting, if slow reading at times. It feels like he’s defining and solidifing things I think I should have known but hadn’t the time to think through properly yet. It makes sense. And, as a geeky type, I find myself on both sides of the page at times; alternately wondering how someone could possibly fail to understand the operation of something as simple as that and what sort of bonehead thinks up an interface I have to spend days figuring out how to use. (Sorry, concrete examples escape me at the moment.)

The Princess Bride (William Goldman)

Yes, I’ve seen the movie, and yes, it was good. I have, however, too much experience with book/movie relationships and seek the whole of the story, for better or for worse.

1001 Dumbest Things Ever Said (Edited, etc. by Steven Price)

I haven’t read it all yet (having just aquired it for Christmas) so the Jury is still officially out, but this would be my nomination for the Misstitled Book Of The Year Award. While a lot of the quotes really are dumb, many are just malapropisms, slips of the toungue, or the curiously quaint interpretations of knowledge characteristic of those under seven years of age. Sure, they may be flat out wrong, but that doesn’t make them dumb. Or, for example, the much quoted assertions of the late Yogi Berra. I don’t have a clue what he was thinking when he uttered some of his most memorable sentiments, but I find them quite amusing. He seemed to have a knack for stating grains of truth with such logical impossibility that, while the thought is true, the statement obviously isn’t.

For example – “A nickel isn’t worth a dime today.” Factually speaking, a nickel has never been worth the same as a dime and never will be. The thought, however – that a nickel isn’t worth as much as it used to be – is still there. There’s nothing to feed the mind like warping an old cliche into a new context. It’s clever phrasing, intentional or not, and actuall quite logical construction considering the cliche aspect. Some people call them idiots; songwriters make their living off things like “It’s like deja vu all over again.” Illustrating the concept (deja vu) you are utilizing to make your point with your sentence structure does not really strike me as the hobby of dimwits. It’s recursive nature does put a slight warp on the cranial process, but it gets the point across. It’s the sort of thing I would say on purpose. But then, maybe I’m a dumb critic.