“If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent. The delinquent is saying with his actions, "This sucks. I'm going to do my own thing.” ― Yvon Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
When was the last time you felt comfortable doing nothing? Not for an hour or a day, but in general, with no immediate projects at hand? Lewis said he has no problem with inactivity if nothing worthwhile has captured his attention. If he believed that being industrious was important, he said, "I'd be panicked at the question 'What are you working on?' if I wasn't working on anything."
Have you ever taken on a project just so you wouldn't be inactive, just to keep things going? How many better opportunities have you missed because that project made you too busy to pursue them? Being willing to be inactive or less active means you'll be available when something truly worthy of your best effort comes along. It also means you'll have the time and space to go looking for those really worthwhile projects. If you're busy being busy, you'll miss them.
In April 2016, I traveled to Cambridge to hear him give a solo concert, also titled “Avenging Angel,” at Harvard, where his friend Vijay Iyer had organized a festival. Taborn had been preparing for the concert for weeks. He practiced compositions by Bach, Shostakovich and Thelonious Monk, and wrote passages that he could invoke in a moment’s notice in performance. He read poetry, watched old avant-garde films by Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger and kept a record of his ideas on a chalkboard that he couldn’t avoid looking at. For several hours a day, he conducted a grueling set of exercises designed to cultivate finger independence and dexterity. In one of those exercises, he held down one finger while playing a series of notes with another, a move that can be very damaging if executed too quickly. The purpose was to improve his command of dynamics, attacks and releases, something he admires in Cecil Taylor, a pianist with “complete control.”
His final form of preparation was listening to his iPod in the rental car he drove to Cambridge. It contains about 45,000 tracks, and Taborn prefers to listen to it on shuffle. “Moving from Xenakis to some metal thing creates a space where you don’t know what you’re listening to anymore,” he told me in his dressing room. “You’re making inferences and connections, and that’s really what composition is. So I don’t worry what I’m listening to. I just like the experience, the change in moods, the feeling of going from a 20-minute composed track to a 30-second blast of metal. Even the discontinuity creates its own logic.”
My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required.
The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.
But how to persuade creative people to do so? First and foremost, there must be ease, relaxation, and a general sense of permissiveness. The world in general disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad. Even to speculate in public is rather worrisome. The individuals must, therefore, have the feeling that the others won’t object.
Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues.
Steven: The world tries to make you focus. But a lot of what I’ve tried to do with my career is retain the dilettante space. I definitely am focused when I’ve got a book that is defined and I know what’s going into it. But I deliberately map out periods that last for two or three months where I conscientiously do not have an active project. I just spend that time dabbling and reading a weird mix of different books.
The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.