Posted on Leave a comment

Curiosity, being childlike and Questlove’s experience getting older

Being childlike is important to creativity. Children are curious; they ask questions about everyone and everything. They don’t care who is better. They don’t care about their egos. They don’t care if someone is stepping on their own creativity. They play with abandon and talk to famous people with the same irreverence as the talk to their parents and friends.

“When I was ten, I was curious with reckless abandon. There wasn’t any fear about consuming things: if they interested me, I took them in. I ranged far and wide because I wanted to see what was out there,” says Questlove. “Now that I’m older, I’m more cautious. I’ve whittled my influences down to my pantheon of drummers and singers and guitarists, and it’s hard for new people to crack the shell.”

In “Creative Quest,” Questlove calls this a “hardening.” He says that there are some artists about whom he “feels a certain way,” which he explains is “nuanced form of snark.” It allows him to slow roll “whatever envy you admit by not admitting.”

This not-quite jealousy keeps Questlove from listen to a few artists “at all.” It may be that he doesn’t want to be influenced by or learn more about the artist or he feels a certain way, and “it gets worse with age.” Questlove recognizes this as a problem, this “brittleness,” and he says that as a person ages, he or she is going to have to deal with it.

There are a million reasons why its hard to be curious as you get older. Even with the Internet, it’s harder to satisfy that curiosity. Who has time to find out and understand why solar panels work? Who wants to learn new information that could challenge old, long held beliefs? Who wants to find someone younger doing something better in the same field wherein they both work?

It’s easier to keep on living with the information that one has accrued and not to challenge that status quo in one’s own life, even when one specifically self-describes as a creative. It’s much harder for people who think they’re only a little creative or they’re not creative. However, adopting a childlike acceptance of your own limitations and taking wonder in what other people are doing in your field (like children at play) will help you become more creative and have better ideas. It’s in the challenge and the questioning of the status quo that creativity thrives. Find the space that allows you to play, to be curious and to create.

For more on creativity and Questlove, check out: “‘The Pirate Union’ and collaboration” and the links at our Creativity page.

If you liked this essay, you can get more in ‘Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.’ To improve your creativity, get ‘Disneyland Is Creativity.’

Advertisements
Posted on 1 Comment

‘The Pirate Union,’ collaboration, and Questlove’s ‘Creative Quest’

Skull wearing jester's cap with crossed swords underneath

When Edward Allen and I wrote “The Pirate Union,” we were in college. We passed the manuscript back and forth at least once a week with a reading for our friends on the weekend. Fast forward to years later, and Questlove describes the collaboration process for creativity (and “The Pirate Union”) perfectly.

“This was a collaboration,” writes Questlove in “Creative Quest” (p. 102) about working with Tariq, “We negotiated briefly, but most of the energy in the process was spent participating. He waited eagerly for my beat so that he could get going with his lyrics. I excitedly assembled my beat because I couldn’t wait to hear it with his lyrics.”

Ed and I weren’t writing music. We were writing a story, but the feel was the same. We only had one rule: We couldn’t kill the other person’s characters. This kept us from having to start over and having a book full of dead characters (though with the success of “Game of Thrones” maybe we should have killed each other’s characters).

What we did instead was try to find situations that would stump the other author. Sometimes, one of us would write just one sentence. Other times the situation would be much direr. “He leveled the gun at Chantel and pulled the trigger, firing three shots. ‘Three in the head, you know they’re dead.’ Chantel jolted back, dropping Charlie, her head cracked hard against the floor. Mr. Bigbottom smiled down at them and grotesquely blew on the end of his pistol like a cliché cowboy.”

Chantel wasn’t my character, so I couldn’t technically kill her. Ed’s jaw dropped; how could he write her out of this situation? I thought for sure, I had him. And then he smiled, he came up with a solution in seconds and took the manuscript from me. “I know exactly what I’m going to do,” he said. I was afraid and excited. How would he get her out of that situation? Chantel grew into one of my favorite characters.

“Collaborations work best this way, when there’s a mutual desire to see what the other adds,” writes QuestLove.

Like Tariq and Questlove in school, Ed and I had an audience who was also waiting for the next installment, and “The Pirate Union” is better for it.