5 Famous Creative Thinkers Who Adopted Unusual Methods

5 Famous Creative Thinkers Who Adopted Unusual Methods
5 minutes read. September 17th, 2019.

Salvador Dali

To observers, Salvador Dali’s surrealist paintings are often like looking into a dream, which makes perfect sense considering the creative technique that the Spanish artist opted to employ. Dali was interested in how ideas formed in between the phases of sleeping and waking up. He would sit in a chair holding a spoon over a plate which lay on the floor. In a relaxed state, Dali would begin to fall asleep. As soon as he slipped into a slumber, the spoon would clatter against the plate, jolting Dali awake, after which he would quickly record what he saw.

Dali referred to his method as “slumber with a key”, and there’s certainly some science behind the approach. The hypnagogic state – the point in between waking and dreaming – is often where the imagination is at its most fluid and can therefore form links between unusual and unconnected concepts more freely. Hypnagogia is not everyone’s cup of tea, though – despite its ability to trigger vivid and imaginative ideas, it runs the risk of inducing disturbing hallucinations.

Jack White

As well as working to strict deadlines, musician Jack White is a big believer in the idea that self-imposed constraints can help to harness creativity. Whilst recording music for The White Stripes, White tried to limit the number of instruments per song to just three, feeling that an unlimited range of options would result in him taking creativity for granted. “Telling yourself you have all the time in the world, you have all the money in the world, you have all the colours in the palette you want, anything you want – that just kills creativity.”

A disciplined, consistent approach is also the order of the day for White, who stresses the importance of practicing being creative even when we don’t feel the inspiration or motivation to do so.

William S. Burroughs

American writer and visual artist William S. Burroughs was one of the founders of the Beat Generation, a literary movement which heavily influenced culture in 1950s America. Burroughs, whose grandfather was a famous inventor, popularised the method of textual and visual manipulation as a means of freeing the mind from conventional thinking. He would cut a page into four sections and rearrange each piece to form a new page which would say something completely different.

So effective was the technique, which can be traced back to 1920s Dadaism (a movement which focused on rejecting reasoning, logic and aesthetic), that it was adopted by David Bowie in the early 1970s as part of his song writing process. With a near-infinite number of outcomes, the cut-up technique is a tried and tested way of seeking out some unexpected creative inspiration.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone

When it comes to television, there’s conventional deadlines and there’s South Park deadlines. Where most would try to leave themselves a comfortable amount of time to review and make final tweaks to a project, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone like to cut things much finer. Each new episode is created, from the brainstorming phase right through to the final outcome, in the week leading up to its release. On occasion, episodes have even been handed over just hours before the show is due to air.

Such tight timescales are enough to turn even the most experienced creative into a nervous wreck, but the duo often speak of how a hectic week of production is perfectly normal to them, since it results in wild ideas and spontaneous outcomes (and what would South Park be without those?). Things haven’t always gone quite so smoothly, though. In 2013, a power cut at South Park Studios shut down production of the latest episode, forcing Comedy Central to air an old episode in its place.

Yoshiro Nakamatsu

Perhaps it’s best that we issue a ‘don’t try this at home’ warning with this one. Yoshiro Nakamatsu might be the least well-known creative on this list, but the 90-year-old Japanese inventor has over 3500 patents to his name. Known affectionately as Dr. NakaMats, he claims to have invented the floppy disk in 1952 (though this has been disputed in the past by computer giant IBM).

Dr. NakaMats believes that oxygen is the enemy of ideas and that depriving the brain of it is the key to unlocking creative potential. His process involves spending lots of time underwater holding his breath. Ideas, he says, often come “0.5 seconds before death”. A quick scribble on an underwater notepad (invented by Dr. NakaMats, of course) and he returns to the surface with the conceptual beginnings of his latest brainchild. Although we’d probably steer clear of almost drowning ourselves in pursuit of creative perfection, it’s hard to make a case against such inventions as Dr. NakaMats’ PyonPyon jumping shoes (yes, with built-in springs) and self-defence wig (instructions: swing towards your aggressor).

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5 Famous Creative Thinkers Who Adopted Unusual Methods

Paul Hough

Creative Director

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