Note

John Cleese on creativity: sleep, rewrite, focus, avoid interruptions.

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I’ve suddenly discovered that I could sit down with a blank sheet of paper and two hours later I could have written something that then made people laugh… that was an extraordinary moment for me. And I thought: “My godness, I am creative!”.

If I was trying to write a sketch at night and got stuck or I couldn’t think about ending or I couldn’t see how to continue the sketch… I would go to bed and when I wake up in the morning and made myself a cup of coffee and went by my desk to look at the problem not only the solution to this problem immediately appeared to me I couldn’t even remember what the problem had been the previos night.

I wrote a script, I liked that script very very much and because I’ve always been a bit disorganised I lost it and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was a bit disappointed but I sat down and I forced myself to rewrite it from memory. It didn’t take terribly long and then… I found the original. Fortunately I was curious enough to compare the two. And what I discovered was: the one that I rewritten from memory was noticeably better than the original that I’d lost.

The next thing that I noticed was that the most dangerous thing when I was trying of write anything was to be interrupted because the flow of thoughts that I had was not immediately picked up after the interruption. It took me a very long time.

— John Cleese (2009) on creativity

A pattern keeps appearing: in any field, the ways suggested by great people to unleash your inner power are always the same. Sleep. Iterate. Focus. Avoid interruptions.

John Cleese says that you have to set a “starting time and an ending time”, “boundaries of time”. A simple trick to reserve you time to focus, without multitasking, is The Pomodoro Technique.