The Enemy of Creativity

The blank page is the enemy of creativity.

Creativity doesn’t thrive in a land of no limitations. Creativity thrives when it’s forced into false constraints. That’s the basis of all great problem solving. And great music as well. 

The cornerstone class we teach at Wizard Academy is Magical Worlds of Communication. It forms the foundation for every other class, including the Whisky Marketing School and the Whiskey Vault Youtube Channel. In that class we talk a lot about Third Gravitating Bodies, and we spend a large portion focused on music. I’ll talk about that in detail later for everyone that hasn’t attended Magical Worlds. Essentially it is the inclusion of something that doesn’t belong, but fits perfectly once it’s added.

Roy Williams applied his analysis of attraction and memorability to hit songs across the decades to show the application of chaos theory in art. It also explains anything with magical attraction including truly great food, businesses, and musical hits. 

One day, we were standing to the side of the room during class, and I asked Roy, “Have you ever tried creating music with this theory instead of analyzing it?”

He turned to me and said, “No. But that’s what you’re going to do. I’ll pick the hit songs, and you make them dark and moody. The only rule is that you keep the original lyrics and melody. Everything else you can change.”

That began a 6 month recording project I called “Bring the Dark”. Roy would send me songs, and I would take them apart at the seams and rebuild them. 

How do you create something magical from scratch with no guidelines or rules? After hours and hours of sitting, staring, and accomplishing nothing, I realized the answer was.. you don’t.

I took the first song which was “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees, and decided to just learn the progression as a starting point. As I was playing it on acoustic guitar, I slowed it down and discovered the progression was almost identical to “Heart of  Gold” by Neil Young. 

And that’s when I had my epiphany. I could take the song I thought it sounded like, mimic the style, instrumentation and vibe of that song and then overlay the new pop hit melody and lyrics over top. So “Staying Alive” turned into a Bee Gees cover by Neil Young. 

Nights on Broadway, I ripped off Fleetwood Mac. 
Take A Chance On Me, I ripped off Bonnie Raitt
Dancing Queen, I ripped off Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt.

Sometimes stealing from your heroes is the best way to jump start something new. 

Pablo Picasso is widely quoted as having said, “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” 

The same idea occurs in business. Are you defining your company culture? Look at a few companies you love, figure out what makes them tick, and combine them in a way that’s unique to you. The same goes for marketing strategies. 

If you have an hour and truly want a deep dive into this idea, go watch the best keynote speech ever delivered in the history of South by Southwest (an Indie Music Festival in  Austin, TX) given by Bruce Springsteen. It will change your view of creative work forever.

Keep your inspiration on your sleeve. 

Don’t be afraid to build on the shoulders of giants.