As part of one of his lectures on creativity (video here), John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, spoke about what it takes to get into “the open mode” required for creativity, and why that’s so vital for creating your best work.
In many ways, this relates to what I talk about with my students, when I discuss the problems with the formulaic way screenwriting is all-too-commonly taught: with all the education directed toward the conscious editing brain and very little toward the subconscious creative brain, where all the real magic happens.
This induces what Cleese refers to as getting stuck in “the closed mode” in which creativity, and great writing, is impossible.
In the closed mode, the pressure is so great, and the need to do things properly so strong, that you end up cut off from all your best instincts, and more importantly, from the fun of creating.
That doesn’t mean that you just get to play around all day, sing Kumbayah, and pretend that it’s going to lead you to a writing career.
It does mean that if you want to succeed, you need to find a way to balance the two modes of thinking: and to switch effortlessly them, at the right time, and in the right way.
John Cleese’s top 5 things you need for creativity.
John Cleese lists these five conditions as the five things most likely to help you get into the open mode, where creativity is possible:
5. A 22 Inch Waist
And though he may be joking about at least one of them, the way he defines these things is quite fascinating. What follows is a short summary of his points about each, as well as some of my own perspectives on his ideas.
During a recent trip to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, I saw an exhibit that demonstrated a great secret that screenwriters can learn from painters.
In 1957, Picasso had set out to create his own interpretation of Diego Velázquez’ Las Meninas. Rather than starting out by trying to create his own perfected version of Velázquez’ masterpiece, Picasso approached this monumental task by completing a series of 57 preparatory “sketches,” all before he even started the real painting.
Some of these sketches explore a specific aspect of the painting: a girl’s face, a gesture, a structural form, a play of color. Others explore the piece as a whole. Some are just some paint on a canvas, and others are complete paintings so striking, they could hang proudly in any museum in the world.
Are You Allowing Yourself The Freedom To Sketch?
The importance of sketching is a secret known by almost every painter, passed down from generation to generation of great painters and teachers. But sadly…
Dialogue can be one of the most daunting aspects of writing for many screenwriters. It’s easy to become so obsessed with how an audience isperceiving your dialogue (is it believable, memorable, original, unique to our characters, realistic and compelling enough to captivate an audience) that you entirely forget to ask the most important questions:
What is dialogue? And what is it supposed to do in your screenplay?
I’m writing this from the air on my way to Costa Rica, thinking about the importance of location, both in screenplays and in life.
We behave differently in different places, and so do our characters. Travelling abroad, we speak to people we wouldn’t necessarily speak to, face fears we wouldn’t normally face, and get in touch with aspects of ourselves we wouldn’t normally recognize. New locations break us out of our routines, and open us to new experiences. READ MORE
If Hollywood is a giant shark tank, then what does that make your script? In this video, Award Winning Screenwriter Jacob Krueger talks about what it takes to get your script noticed in the feeding frenzy, and how you know when your script is ready to enter the tank.
Everybody wants to sell their script, but how are you supposed to know what makes a movie commercial? And how can you sell your screenplay without selling your soul?
In this video, I discuss the question of why producers choose some scripts and not others, and an organic approach to writing a script that sells, by following your own creative impulses.
If you’re a screenwriter, you’ve probably experienced the feeling of desperation that comes with trying to sell your script. In this new video, I discuss how you can find the confidence to pitch to the right people, in the right ways, and give both your script, and potential producers, the respect they deserve.
What’s interesting (and horrifying) about this text is that this doesn’t come from the sales side of the website-it comes from a FAQ on the recruitment side, hiring readers to provide these coverage services to writers.
Q: Can I really be successful as a script consultant if I’m not a screenwriter – or not a very good one?
A: Absolutely. Most of the top consultants are not writers. [The person], considered the ‘mother of script consulting’ has never written a script-but has consulted on over 2,000 screenplays and commands several thousand dollars per script. Even if you don’t have a unique background… all certified script consultants, who have fulfilled an internship, are eligible to become part of our paid staff…
It’s nice to think of your enraptured audience, hanging on your every word, lingering on your thematic motifs, and preparing treatises on the finer points of your arguments.
But the truth of the matter is that movie dialogue, just like real life conversation, usually happens way too quickly for that.