Recently, I came across a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal about how to be creative. It has some interesting examples of how people came to make new discoveries, like the glue that didn’t work becoming the basis for the Post-It note, and the origin of the “I Love New York” campaign.
The author of the article quotes Steve Jobs, who famously declared that “creativity is just connecting things.” That goes along, I guess, with my previous blog about synchronicity. Seeing the pieces of a puzzle in your head, and then visualizing how they might go together. Sometimes you can come up with unexpected solutions to a problem, or end up looking at things in a new way.
One of my favorite statements in the article is this: “It’s this ability to attack problems as a beginner, to let go of all preconceptions and fear of failure, that’s the key to creativity.”
The process of jumping off and starting my own business is a bit like that, and I’m finding lots of ways to explore my own creativity. The article also has a list of tips on how to be more creative, including daydreaming, laughter, and surrounding yourself with the color blue (really!).
But it didn’t list one of my favorite creative outlets, which is making music. Every Tuesday night – and this has been going on for 40 years – members of the Golden Link Folk Singing Society gather in a circle with their instruments and sing and play music together. I’ve been attending the singarounds off and on since we moved here, and regularly for the past two years.
So every week I get out my ukulele or mountain dulcimer and try to work up a song to sing. This week, the theme was Irish songs, so I got out a song I have performed before: “The City of Chicago” by Barry Moore (better known as Luka Bloom). It’s a song about Irish emigrants to America during the Great Famine in the 1840s. I usually play it on dulcimer, but I wanted to see how it sounded on ukulele.
After a few tries, I decided it wasn’t quite working. So I went back to the original source material, which was a collection of songs performed by the great Irish musician Christy Moore (who is also Luka Bloom’s brother). As I was looking through the book, I came across the song “Ride On,” which I first heard in college from some Irish friends I visited in Belfast. It’s a rather melancholy song that starts out being about a rider and a horse, but ends up being about love and loss. (Watch the YouTube clip below.)
I’ve always wanted to perform that song at a sing, and found that if I transposed it up a step, I could put it in a key I could play on the ukulele. Very quickly, the song came together, with my voice automatically finding the tune and my fingers finding a good strum pattern. It helps that it’s a song I have been listening to and singing along with for a long time.
The best part of doing this is that even though it was almost midnight, I got so energized by what I was working on that I just kept going until I finished the full arrangement. And then when I was done, I had the genesis of an idea which has become this blog entry. It isn’t where I expected to end up, but I just opened myself to trying something new and it turned into a creative idea.
As I said, one of the tips in the article was to daydream; but I think music can serve this purpose as well. It takes you away from your everyday life, nourishes the soul, and can inspire you to try new things.