Rick Rubin on The Creative Life
When you throw out a word like creativity, many people immediately assume they are left out of the conversation. Maybe you’re one of these people. Maybe you’re thinking: I’m not an artist; what does creativity have to do with me? But today we’re talking about creativity in a much broader sense of the word. If you’re moving through the world and making choices—about career stuff, parenting, how you treat strangers, whatever—that’s all creativity.
At least, according to the legendary record producer, Rick Rubin. He recently came on the Ten Percent Happier podcast to talk to Dan Harris about the creative process. The insights that came out of their conversation apply not only to those who consider themselves artists or creators, but to all of us—because, as Rick says, to be human is to be creative. Here’s some sage wisdom from their conversation.
- We’re all creative (not just “artists”)
“We're all faced with choices daily, and if we're making considered choices, that's the work of an artist. If you're not just checking off things from a list, but if you're deciding, ‘hmm, what's the best way to handle this? What's the most interesting way? What's the best seasoning I could add to this dish that I'm preparing? What would it be like at this time of day to take the scenic route home instead of the direct route?’ In whatever job you do, chances are you're there to make decisions that involve creative choices. Every choice we make is a creative act. We do them all the time. It's funny when I hear someone say, ‘I'm not creative.’ You're not a human being if you're not creative. It's truly our birthright.”
- Paying attention feeds creativity
“(When you do) awareness practices where you're really paying attention, sitting in silence, just allowing whatever to happen, and being with it, you start to notice things that, had you not been doing this practice, would have been complete background noise. Things like where the shadows are falling, or when you pass a plant or a tree. There's a lot to take in when we choose to see what's there. It's impossible to take it all in—it's endless. But when we open the aperture with interest to see what's going on in the ordinary, in the mundane, there's usually something really interesting happening underneath. There's some story of life happening.”
- When you’re stuck, embrace change
“There are a lot of things you can do (when you’re in a creative rut), but the first thing that comes up is changing the context of what you're doing. So turn off the lights, light a candle, go for a walk. Change the way you're doing what you're doing. Go on a trip, find a new environment, work in a new place, work outside instead of inside, sit in a coffee shop, listen to the chatter, get inspired. Put yourself in a place where you can get out of yourself, where there's other stimulation. Walks are great. If I have a problem I'm trying to solve, I might go for a swim and just forget about the problem. But it's there. And I swim and I swim and I swim, and at some point, it's not unusual for me to be like, ‘oh, this might be a way to do it,’ even though I wasn't trying to solve it at that moment. I was focused on breathing and swimming.”
This episode of the Ten Percent Happier podcast goes live on August 16. Tune in then to hear more from this inspired conversation, and in the meantime also check out Rick Rubin’s book, “The Creative Act: A Way of Being”.
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