The secret to unleashing your creativity.
Legendary musician, poet, philosopher, composer and chess master John Cage totally nails it when it comes to creatives who ‘make it matter’.
Cage left behind an amazing body of work, including his notorious 1952 conceptual piece 4’33’’, which is completely silent and continues today to cause controversy for its comment on audition.
But he also left us with his insights into how to live a creative life. Those insights were informed by poets and thinkers from Western and Eastern traditions.
In 1967-68, artist and educator, Sister Corinna Kent created a list called “Some Rules for Students and Teachers”. (The list is often attributed to Cage, but actually only the tenth advice on the list is his.)
The advice was popularised by Cage, whose long-time partner, choreographer Merce Cunningham kept Kent’s list in his studio where he rehearsed until his death in 1992. Taken as a whole, it pretty much covers all aspects of the life lived creatively, including some of the topics we discuss regularly here at Give It Mouth, like discipline and work ethic, mentoring and embracing failure.
** The list can be found in Kent’s Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit.
RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.
RULE TWO: General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.
RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher — pull everything out of your students.
RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.
RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.
RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.
RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyse at the same time. They’re different processes.
RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)
HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later.