Some Thoughts on Creativity

I recently started reading Khoi Vinh's "How They Got There", a fantastic book where Khoi sits down and talks with designers on what their career trajectory was like from the outset to present day. Speaking with Alex Cornell, this bit really resonated with me:

"I think that stems from music, because if your aspiration is to be a singer/songwriter/guitar player, the goal is, basically, to become famous, or whatever that actually means anymore. When I was growing up, I always wanted to play a big show at Madison Square Garden. That desire was my nascent understanding of what happened when you become successful in music. The pure feeling, though, is you want to reach as many people as possible, so as many people as possible can experience your work and understand you in a deeper way."

Another lifetime ago, I was pulling double duty working in the receiving department at a pro audio company by day and a recording studio at night. I met an old cat there who became a mentor to me during that brief time. For the sake of the story, let's call him Rob. One day Rob invited me into his office. He sat at his desk, and with a bold face asked, 

"Brian, what do you want to do with your life?"

From the doorway, I shot back my obvious answer from a schmuck like me:

"I want to make records."

Rob let the moment land, then with an annoyed tone said:

"No. What do you REALLY want to do with you life?"

I just stared at him blankly. I thought I made myself pretty clear.

After an awkward silence and a lot of staring, Rob said:

"It's bigger than making records. It's bigger than landing a job at your favorite recording studio. I think there's a lot more you want to do and you're focus is a little too narrow. Sit down soon and really think about what you want to do."

I left his office thinking he was finally going senile. But as time slowly went on, I started to learn more about myself. Then one day I realized he was absolutely right. It wasn't just about making records. It was about creation.

But why do we create thing? Why do we make records? Why do we paint canvas? Why do we carve sculptures? Why do we build statues? Why do we silk screen? Why do we draw? Why do we produce movies?

Because it's fun? Well, sure. But it's not just that. I think really, people that create things are looking to move people. 

Just like watching Trent Reznor destroy his keyboard on stage at Woodstock '94 moved me, and left teenage Brian dreaming of a day where it could be me completely decimating a keyboard on the stage like MSG (I'd still really like to do that), the method in which we want to move people isn't the only way to achieve it.