A Lesson in Creativity from John Cleese

Posted by Drew Stoga on July 19, 2012

John CleeseA few weeks ago I shared a few lessons in creativity I picked up from the Jonah Lehrer book Imagine: How Creativity Works (hint: play lots of ping pong). In order to help you find the expressway to your creative zone, today we have a few more lessons in creativity from actor, writer and Monty Python star John Cleese.

Creativity seems like a hard thing to talk (or write) about but it’s actually a pretty hot topic these days. In fact, Cleese recently spoke at something called the Cannes International Festival of Creativity which sounds like an excuse for a bunch of smart people to go hang out on the beach in France (I’m still waiting for my invite).

Fast Company has a full report on the speech. It’s worth a read if you have five or ten minutes but, in case you don’t, I’ll tell you what I found most interesting…

Personally I enjoyed the first ‘lesson’ in which Cleese recounted the story of losing a script he and fellow Python Graham Chapman had been working on together. Check out what happened in this excerpt from Fast Company’s recap:

“I was embarrassed that I lost our work, so I rewrote it from memory, straight off in a hurry. Then I discovered the original and the one I’d done very quickly was better than the original. I didn’t spend any time thinking about it, so how could it be better than the original?"

“The only thing I could think was that my unconscious had been working on the sketch and improving it ever since I wrote it. I began to see a lot of my best work seemed to come as a result of my unconscious working on things when I wasn’t really attending to them."

Whether or not you are a fan of the ridiculous humor of Monty Python, I think that’s a pretty cool story and an important lesson. Sometimes it actually pays to take a step back from your creative problem – sleep on it, if you will. As exciting as a creative idea is, sometimes it pays to let it marinate up there in that creative brain of yours. You might just get somewhere cool without even knowing it.


What do you think? Is creativity something you have to constantly work at? Does it come naturally to you, maybe when you least expect it? Is all of this unconscious talk a bunch of bull?

Leave a comment and let us know how you get in the creative zone. And enjoy this ridiculous Python clip starring Mr. Cleese himself.


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