Tuesday, June 12

John Cleese Talks About Creativity

John Cleese begins his talk by saying that "creativity simply cannot be explained" but goes on to give it a pretty clear outline. It is, he says, not a talent, it is a way of operating.

Creative people, he says, can get themselves into a particular mood, a playful mood, in which their creativity can function.

John Cleese advises us to stick with whatever problem we are facing and refuse to settle for the obvious answer or the easy way out. He admonishes us to be prepared to tolerate the slight anxiety caused by not solving the problem. It is tempting to take the easy decision because that would make us feel better, the anxiety of not having decided would be gone, but we need to give our minds as long as possible to come up with something original.

Confidence is important. Don't be afraid, he says, of making a mistake. Don't fret over what will happen if you do this, or if you do that. You can't be playful if you're frightened of experimenting. You have to risk saying things that are silly or illogical or wrong.

This reminds me of the advice Bill Murray gave in his Esquire interview: "You've gotta go out there and improvise and you've gotta be completely unafraid to die. You've got to be able to take a chance to die."

John Cleese's talk is about 30 minutes long but it goes quickly, he is a marvelous speaker. I highly recommend it.


  1. I agree with Cleese's basic vein - you can't let yourself worry that people will say your creativity is dumb. Because A LOT of people will say that. If we listen, we'll never flourish.

  2. Yes, I couldn't agree more! I've admired John Cleese for many years, it is both humbling and motivating that he keeps on exploring new fields, he keeps on learning. Truly, he is an inspiration.


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