Creativity by John Cleese

Already this year, little over a month into it, we have lost a host of creative heroes: icon David Bowie, actor Alan Rickman, musician Glenn Fry, manager Rene Angelil, musician Natalie Cole, Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmster, among – likely – others. Bad year for creative visionaries.

Thankfully, John Cleese, legendary comedian who helped to change comedy with his Monthy Python peers, has not been added to that list. And if all is good, he will not be added to that list for many years to come.

The reason I find myself thinking of John Cleese, when I should be thinking of the characters in the chapter of the book that I am writing, is because I recall so vividly (and not just because I am literally listening to the audio of the speech as I type this) from several years ago a speech the comedian once gave. It is in this speech that Cleese sums up his perspective of creativity: that there is an Open Mode – where creativity really happens – and the closed more – where it is shored up, bolstered, and built up into the professional work that we call “published.” But the more important part of this is the 5 things that one needs to have to be able to be creative: Space, Time, Time, Confidence, and a 22-inch waist. Wait. Sorry. That last one was Humor.

It is the Time problem that got me thinking about this video just now – while I should be focusing on my chapter – because Time is both time set aside to create and it is time to get to that point where you CAN actually struggle with the discomfort of a problem as it itches its way into your mind. I suppose this entire blog post is an expression of his first definition of Time: typing this out gives my fingers the chance they need to work out any kinks, and to start putting one word in front of the next, in – what I hope – is a clear, and logical order. Therefore, if you are having difficulty reading this post, it is because I have not yet warmed up and need more time to play. Or else your first language is not English, at which point, congratulations! You’ve learned my confusing and wonderful language! The whole point is that this is an easy task that will help me focus. Then, once the easy part is done, I can delve into the uncomfortable, awkward part that is the unknown of how my chapter will come together.

I’ve left you scratching your head, haven’t I? Well, let me ease YOUR discomfort, and give you Mr. Cleese, himself. He can explain it far better than I ever could, especially since he is better at making jokes than I am. Please be kind to him. Mr. Cleese is such a wonderful play-mate, but he is no spring chicken, and we certainly wouldn’t want to add him to our too-rapidly-growing list of missed creative geniuses. Get ready to both laugh and learn, and likely, admire the man.

John Cleese on Creativity




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