One of my students did a presentation about the designer and filmmaker, Saul Bass. She covered his more famous designs for the title sequences for Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese – like his animated paper cut-out of a heroin addict’s arm for The Man with the Golden Arm and those for Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Psycho. He also did some iconic corporate logos for the Bell System, AT&T’s 1980s globe logo and Continental and United Airlines.

But there was no mention of his movie titles for It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World – one of my childhood favorites. And no mention of a film I saw as a young student and showed as a teacher (in both instances on 16mm film). That short film is Bass’ “Why Man Creates” – a half hour about creativity and approaches we take to that process.

It won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject in 1968 and an excerpt was shown on the first-ever broadcast of CBS’ 60 Minutes that fall. (Trivia: Although uncredited, George Lucas, who was studying film at USC at the time, was the second unit cameraman on this film.)

I watched a clip on YouTube and the animation style and photographed fashions seem a bit dated, but it is still out there in its approach.

I’ve been stuck lately in writing posts. I seem to be writing a lot about the sky, stars and planets. Not a bad thing, but not very creative. So, I started clicking some creativity links.

From The Energy Project, I found ideas for making the proper setting for creativity:

The best ideas tend to emerge by extending, deepening, rethinking, and reframing previous thoughts, suggestions, and solutions. Many ideas seem wrong or somehow off base at first, but by deepening and discussing and reframing them, they often become more coherent, interesting, and feasible.

By rebuking people for mistakes and failures, we stifle creativity. For leaders, it’s often important to stand back, especially in the early stages of any creative process, allowing their teams to brainstorm without feeling pressured by the opinion of the head of the group. By creating a democratic atmosphere where everyone’s ideas are considered equally valuable, the final product will often be much richer – and the members of the team more encouraged to contribute and grow.

I’m not trying to build a creative team but some of the suggestions make sense for individuals:

Make space for uninterrupted time to brainstorm and come up with new ideas.

Step away from a problem you are trying to solve and let our unconscious work on it. Incubation via a walk, listening to music, or meditating.

Try to avoid the self-criticism that shuts down creativity.

There are no lack of books under the heading “Creativity.” But I’m not sure that you can find your creativity in a book like The Well of Creativity, but you might find a way to discover your creativity or ways to encourage it.

I cam across some books by Julia Cameron who seems to have made a living at guiding readers on the “spiral path” of the “artist’s way.” She started with a bestselling creativity manual, The Artist’s Way followed by two more twelve-week programs for creative recovery in Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity and Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance. (All 3 are in The Complete Artist’s Way.) More than a living, she seems to have created a minor industry from creativity. There’s The Artist’s Way at Work and audio books like Reflections on the Artist’s Way. As we head into a new year, there’s The Artist’s Way Engagement Calendar or The Artist’s Date Book.

Am I being dismissive and mocking of all this? Actually, no. I think it’s important to “clear the spring and tend the fountain” of your creativity. For me, writing is my path. I have multiple journals and have at least looked into lots of books on creativity. (The Right to Write, Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius, The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life, Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity, Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques)  Books can suggest “creativity Workouts and exercises but you need to take action at some point.

While some writers say they are intimidated by the blank page, I find a blank page to be very inviting. It’s like that fresh snow cover that hides a lot of ugliness. I find it hopeful. That’s probably why I am always buying new blank books and start to fill them with some new theme of writing – garden notes, blog ideas, favorite quotations, sketches, haiku…

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