John Cleese on creativity

It’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking; and it’s also easier to do little things we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about.

—John Cleese

Cleese on creativity, 1991:

Bonus quote:

Solemnity, on the other hand — I don’t know what it’s for.

Cleese concludes with some (satirical) advice on how to prevent your subordinates from being creative, so they will never rock the boat or endanger your authority. It occurred to me while listening that part of the reason Big Publishing is in so much trouble is that it is largely run, at the senior executive level, by people who genuinely think this is a good idea.

In particular, he suggests keeping everyone frantically busy all the time, so they will have no time to think, or to get into the ‘open mode’ in which all creativity occurs. In this light it becomes clear that piling hugely excessive amounts of work onto an ever-diminishing number of employees, as big publishers have been doing for years, is a pitch-perfect way of stifling creativity in a business whose products depend on the creative process for their very existence.

There is the writer’s creativity, of course; but more than that, the services that publishers are so proud of offering to writers, and so poor at actually delivering, nearly all require creative thought to do well: structural editing, cover art and design, blurb-writing (a tremendously difficult creative art), and figuring out how to get the bookselling industry and the reading public to take interest in the obscure fact that the book actually exists. Too much of this work is done in an uncreative, perfunctory manner, which in many cases means it might as well not be done at all.

(Hat tip to The Passive Voice)

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