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The Magic Cafe Forum Index Ľ Ľ Notes from a Designer's Logbook - by George Ledo Ľ Ľ Creativity: The ultimate search engine (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

George Ledo
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Before I continue with ideas and techniques on illusion and prop design, I'd like to offer some thoughts on creativity in general.


Many years ago I found a reference to a publication issued by the Library of Congress Council of Scholars, titled ďCreativity: A Continuing Inventory of Knowledge.Ē I spent years looking for this thing, and, amazingly, couldnít find anyone at the Library who even knew where to look for it.

But I finally found it, and opened it expecting to find miracles.

Alas, I was disappointed. The book turned out to be about a series of questions on various topics, discussed by a committee, and resolved by the committee in very scholarly, committee-like ways. I didnít even finish reading it.

That title, however, stuck with me: ďCreativity: A Continuing Inventory of Knowledge.Ē Thinking about that title, I realized that this is exactly the key to being creative. Itís how we were taught in design school, itís how most of us in the creative professions think, and itís a technique we use all the time.

So what does this really mean? Okay, letís cut right to the chase. Hereís the condensed version of the condensed version of a treatise on how to be creative, in six simple steps:

First, stuff as much material into your brain as you can. Read, watch movies, go to museums, concerts, parks, sporting events, and so on. Develop your curiosity into an obsession. Donít just look at the world around you; observe it and learn from it.

Second, keep all this material open in front of you all the time. All of it. Pretend itís all on one gigantic table or bulletin board and that you can see it all at once.

Third, when looking for an idea, look at this entire mass of material. Donít just focus on the obvious stuff.

Fourth, donít take anything for granted. I mentioned in another post that Iím working on a book on how to design a haunted house, and this is one of the messages I deliver over and over in it.

Fifth, donít get locked into the first idea that comes to mind. Try different ideas until you find one you like.

Sixth, relax and enjoy the experience. Our brains are actually very good at this type of thing. The trick is to allow the brain do it, instead of restricting it.

Thatís it. Thatís the basic technique used by creative people all over the world for centuries. Yes, it takes work sometimes. But who ever said anything in life was easy?

If you go back and look at step three, youíll notice that this is very similar to allowing your brain to work like a search engine on the Web. Because thatís exactly what itís doing.

Now letís look at some background and why this way of thinking works.

Most of us went through the same structure in school: a linear, one-subject-by-period system. Maybe the first period was history, then math, then maybe English, then art and so forth. In math period, we studied math. Period.

I could buy a roll of butcher paper and divide it into columns, one column per subject. Letís see, five or six subjects per semester, times two semesters per year, times nineteen years, thatís about two hundred and twenty-eight columns. This column is Algebra I, that column is History of the Western World Part I, another column is Scenic Projection, another is Topics in Neoclassical Theatre, and so forth.

After twelve, sixteen, or more years of school, most of us have learned to think this way and do it subconsciously. One column per subject. All neatly organized.

But totally segregated.

Then I can add more columns for everyday stuff: my job, cooking, buying a house, and so forth. Again, everything neatly organized by columns.

And still segregated.

So, if Iím looking for an idea that involves Germany in World War I, I look in the History of the Western World Part II column. And maybe one or two others.

Simple. Piece of cake. Itís all right there. In one or two columns.

And, yes, you guessed it: segregated.

But creative people donít do that. They look at everything at once Ė every column Ė for anything that might have anything to do with the subject. They literally do a Google search inside their head and look at everything that comes up.

In the next part of this article, Iíll discuss how to apply this, and then we'll move right on to illusion and prop design.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine

Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
George Ledo
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Magic Cafť Columnist
SF Bay Area
2871 Posts

Profile of George Ledo
Okay, letís look at an example of how this works.

Letís say youíre looking for an idea with a pyramid. Instead of going to a reference on Egypt, grabbing something, and calling it a day, let your mind ramble as you look at everything you know about pyramids.

Remember e.e.cummings from high-school English class? Use the stream-of-consciousness technique. Hereís a typical train of thought used by creative people:

ďPyramids. Egypt. The Great Pyramid. Okay, fine. Whatís that thing over there, by Saqqara? Aha, the stepped pyramid of Zoser. Hmmm... stepped pyramids. Didnít the Aztecs have those too? Yep. And they sometimes had a river of blood pouring down the front from the human sacrifices done at the top. Pyramids and human sacrifices. Who else did human sacrifices? The Mayas? No, but they did have some interesting buildings. Okay, Iíll file that away.Ē

ďMore pyramids. The 1970ís and the little pyramids that sharpened razor blades. Hmmm... pyramids and razor blades. The whole tie/dye movement. The book Chariots of the Gods. HmmmÖ Thor Heyerdahl and his adventures on Easter Island. Mysterious islands. Jurassic Park and Isla Nublada.Ē

ďWhat else has to do with pyramids? The glass one outside the Louvre, designed by I.M. Pei. The Da Vinci Code. How about those little glass prisms used on old sailing ships to allow sunlight below decks? They werenít exactly pyramids, more like faceted cones, but so what? A small glass pyramid-shaped paperweight. ConesÖ The ball, cone, and handkerchief trickÖĒ

And so on. One thing leads to another as your mind jumps among and between those neatly ordered and segregated columns and finds fascinating things hidden in them. Eventually an idea will come.

But letís bring this closer to magic. Say you want to do a levitation. Fine, start with the obvious: Asrah, Aga, Super-X, and all their variations. Throw in Zombie and the dancing cane just for the heck of it.

Now let your mind fly in this free-form, stream-of-consciousness manner.

What else is there on levitations? How about those high-speed magnetic levitation trains in Japan? JapanÖ now thereís an interesting idea. Trains, too. And wasnít there something in Dick Tracy about some vehicle that reversed gravity? Reversing gravity... HmmmÖ Gravity... the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, CA.

Then thereís The Force, the Jedi Knights, and the light sabers. Any other myths involving levitation? Icarus? Nah, thatís been done. That scene in The Exorcist with Linda Blair floating over the bed.

Anything in Egypt? Kellarís Levitation of the Princess Karnak. How about those theories that aliens built the pyramids by levitating the blocks? King Tut, Howard Carter, and the curse. A floating mummy? Wasn't unwrapping a mummy considered a cool evening's activity among the London elite back in the late 1800's? Anne Rice's The Mummy.

What else floats? Helium balloons. Blimps. The Goodyear Blimp. Super Bowl. Kites. Charlie Brown. Snoopy as the Red Baron.

What the heck has this guy Ledo been drinking?

An hour or two of letting your mind wander like this and youíll have forgotten about Asrah, Aga, SuperX, and all their cousins, and started thinking in new and fresh directions.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine

Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
The Magic Cafe Forum Index Ľ Ľ Notes from a Designer's Logbook - by George Ledo Ľ Ľ Creativity: The ultimate search engine (0 Likes)
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