9 Tricks to Engineering Chance Into the Creative Process
Can you use chance in your creative process? Isn’t chance this random thing you cannot control and, if openly used, means you don’t have much merit in the first place? Lulu Miller doesn’t think so.
Lulu Miller thinks embracing chance is the most powerful way to get out of our head, with all its grand theories and wishes about what we would like to create, and get in touch with all the unknown and unpredictable magic that might elevate, reinforce or take our idea to a whole new journey.
A bit of context here: when she did this talk at Creative Mornings, Lulu Miller had been a radio producer for several years at Radiolab, and was about to co-launch a brand new podcast on NPR named Invisibilia. If you’re not a podcast listener, this word might not mean much, but when the first season of Invisibilia came out, it took the podcast world by surprise, and went straight into my personal favorites.
So it is interesting to listen to someone who is on the verge of becoming a “star” in her field, talk about their creative process in a genuine and generous way. I absolutely love this talk, and I know 45 minutes might feel like a long time, but it is worth it. If anything, you’ll probably wish that it was longer, as it’s obvious Miller had much more to say and share about the topic.
I highlighted the 9 points Miller makes below. And here is her central thesis:
- Chance is one of your greatest ally, fight the instinct to think ideas, inspiration and solutions will come from your intellect.
- The hunch is what gets you out the door, but the discovery is wilder than you can imagine.
- To recap, this idea that the richness of the world and perhaps the stuff that will make your work stronger lies outside in the happy accidents and lies in you getting out of your head
How to Catapult Pellets of Chance into Your Stupid Head
By Lulu Miller
1 – YODEL YOUR THOUGHTS
“I’ll yodel what I think the meaning is for a story, I’ll bring my stupid hunch, I’ll bring my stupid idea to the person I’m interviewing. And I’ll say like (yodelling) ‘Is your story about the recognition of love?’ and they’ll say (yodelling back) ‘No fucking at all!’ and because you ask them, then maybe it shakes something up. I have found out that 10 times out of 10, the echo that comes back is better.”
2 – USE THE NUMBERS GAME
“With the numbers game, what you end up doing is that you bless each encounter with the quality of low-stakes, so whatever may happen may happen.“
3 – KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE HALLWAYS
“Whatever the thing you’re working on is, keep your eyes peeled when you are in transit. Keep your eyes peeled for that insight, just when your head is saying ‘this doesn’t matter’, because I think you often see things there. “ In other wordsm the best thing might happen just before and after the “official” moment.
4 – SHITTY POTS
“No Time can be really good. Productivity equals a huge idea and not enough time to do it. When you churn this out, you collect the debris of life.”
5 – REFRAME THE FRUSTRATION AS GOLD
Your best insight often lies behind that frustration on feeling understood or being able to explain yourself. It pushes you to clarify your idea to the bone and sometimes come out with true gold.
6 – JUST ADMIT YOU’RE A SKEEVEY TEENAGER WHO LIKES DOING ILLICIT THINGS (JUST BECAUSE THEY’RE ILLICIT)
“The hobby is a profoundly sacred thing. What I mean by hoppy is something you love doing that has no connection to your self-worth. Harnessing some of that power by going “This is not the thing that I’m supposed to be doing, therefore it’s more fun.” is actually something you can bring in your process.
7 – DEBUNK THE MYTH OF THE CREATIVITY KILLING FOCUS GROUP
“I think there’s this concept in the creative world that focus group are bad and idiotic creativity killing. I actually think you can cherry-pick the solutions from the focus-group.”
8 – SLURP FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S BRAINS
“Basically, there’s so much in others’ brains. One thing I’ll do in Radio is ask people to record their thoughts for a day before interviewing them. Just thinking of bringing test subjects in your process.”
9 – HAVE A LITTLE DAMN FAITH
“The hopes and the dreams for the project from your head, that feels like the fuel, that feels like that’s why you’re doing it, I think it’s actually the breaks, and it’s actually the chokehold, and it’s what prevents you every day from doing it. So I say, sit down with a little damn faith and do the things you’re doing, and let go of the plans for it and trust that you on your stupid little own will actually be ok.”