While driving down the highway, I discovered my creative driver. There it was, in the eastbound lanes, directly across the median from the plastic bottle of urine that’s spent six+ months fermenting in the sun. The location is purely coincidental, of course. Yes, I’ve been pissed off at times but never into a container discarded out the window.
Hold on a moment … [David looks up and smiles/nods knowingly/wisely] … Whew! That was close. I almost had to envision my core competency and streamline it in triplicate.
Where were we? Ah, yes. The interview. Savages guitarist Gemma Thompson talked about approaching her guitar not as a rule-bound instrument but as a tool that might make the kind of noise she wants it to make. Rules – chords, scales, tunings – were only accidentally complied with and did not guide composition and performance. That doesn’t mean the ‘rules’ are irrelevant, they’re just not as relevant for creative expression. The resulting product will be good or bad depending on how the music follows these rules and when it departs. It’s creation-first, compliance-by-accident. That’s pretty f___ing cool!
Don’t get me wrong, rules are great. They’ve evolved, for the most part, because they work by defining boundaries that contain most of what’s good … and lots of what’s bad, too. But, staying inside the lines is production, not necessarily creativity. These rules do grant the creative person a set of tools that speed the creative process. If I look at my guitar with no preconceived rules for how it works, I may have acquired an expensive cutting board, an inefficient storage system, or a malfunctioning boomerang.
… (smile and nod break) …
But, if I’m stuck on following rules, I’d rarely be able to start a sentence with ‘but’ or have sentences without a verb. Not one. I’d spend much more time diagramming sentences and much less time just writing them. Heck, I’d give up on writing! Without rules for a guitar, I would never be able to reach my level of minimal skill such that I can effectively ignore the rules. If I want to write something around an A major and a B-flat major chord, I can do it. If I want to use one scale when ascending and another descending I can do that, too. If I want to accidentally create a chord combining D-major and D-minor, I can. But it doesn’t always work.
My own creative expression, musical or textual (writable?) starts as an expression of emotion: amusement, angst, boredom, anger, or something else (is happiness an emotion?). Through my work, I have a lot of experience writing about complicated things for technical or non-technical audiences. There are lots of rules and little room for deviation. A scientific article about tobacco cessation need not go back to Columbus and Sir Walter Raleigh although it was a lot more fun! That background in rules gives me an advantage because I have an experience gluing words together in large sentences that convey something (I hope). Here and now, I don’t think about the rules, I just write (or tap on tiny screens, like now). I write as I talk although I’m not sure if I use parentheses while speaking. I should. Come to think of it, I will. But first, I have to smile and nod some more.