Being Creative as a Fiddler

The Creativity Story

You may be  a Creative already and not know it. Or, maybe you feel that you are not creative. Or, you may already revel in your creativity.  No matter. Here’s a story that sheds beau coup light on the subject. At the end of the story I’ll explain the whole allegory. Let’s start with a familiar setting:

An Inventor, a Poet, and a Psychologist Go into a Bar

As they go in, they talk about how easy it might be to get a bartender to invent a new drink, right on the spot.

“I have a method that is very intuitive, non-stressful and totally effective,” said the inventor.

“Intuition is good,” said the poet, “but sometimes you have to just slap two things together, if nothing comes from your deep well of creativity.”

“That deep well of yours,” said the psychologist, “hmm, I have a simple easy technique to go even deeper.”

The inventor continued, Well, let’s just see who has the best method of coaxing creativity from a reluctant mind. The winner stands the round of drinks.”

“Wait a minute,” the poet argued, “shouldn’t the winner get his drink paid for?”

“Hah!” the inventor replied, “a good reliable source of creativity is so valuable, and so worth sharing, the winner will see the payment of the bar tab as a small addition. Anyway, that will undoubtedly be me.”

They moved into the building and up to the bar. As the bar keep greeted them, the inventor spoke up again.

Inventor Being Creative

“Hello bar keep. I’m Nicola Tesla. You may have heard of my inventions, like the A/C electricity that powers your fine establishment. My colleagues, Sam Coleridge, Nate Branden and I have a little wager on how easy it might be to create an all new drink on the spot, using the method I use to create my fabulous inventions.”

Nikola Tesla, a Smithsonian Inst. image
Nikola Tesla, a Smithsonian Inst. image

The other two cleared their throats and coughed.

“Or, if not my method, then each of my colleagues claims to have a way to be creative. We’ll give them a chance, too.”

“Okay,” said the bar tender, “it’s a slow night here. My name’s Quothe, and I’ll take your bet and your gonna regret….Wait a minute. Okay Mr. Tesla, what is your solution to the problem. You’re mighty full of yourself. What have you got?”

The inventor stood up straight and caught Quothe’s gaze with mesmerizing intensity.

“There is a part of the world we don’t normally notice, but can detect if we give our whole attention to it. Just relax your mental activity for a moment and feel your mental self flowing past all boundaries. Ask yourself what three ingredients would go together to make and excellent new drink.

Don’t force the answer. Relax and let it come to you as you expand your boundaries.”

“That sounds good,” Quothe said, “but before I try anything, I want to hear the other two ways of being creative. I’ll probably choose the one that sounds easiest.”

His eyes flicked to the poet. “Your turn, Mr. Coleridge.”

Creative Poet

“There was that time a neighbor was visiting,” he began, “And started in on how he had just seen an albatross, how remarkable that was, and how lucky the bird is for a ship to have it visit while at sea. And on, and on. I was just about ready to do away with my neighbor, and the thought struck my mind, what if you killed such a wonderful bird?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge as an older poet
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

He stopped for a moment and nodded his head chuckling.

“The next thing I knew, I had written a rough draft of my most famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The point is, just put your hand on one bottle and ask yourself what you have never added to it. and what would happen if you did use that new thing.”

“Oh yes,” Quothe replied, “a drink that smells like a dead fish. Perfect.”

Creative Sentence Stems

And swinging around to the psychologist, “Now I can’t wait to hear your plan, Mr. Branden.”

“My plan isn’t usually applied to practical doings, it’s a method of self introspection. Even so, it should work,” the psychologist paused, and then continued with focused attention.

 Nathaniel Brandon from 16 December 2014 Independent
Nathaniel Brandon from 16 December 2014 Independent

“Suppose you begin by saying, ‘The best thing you can add to a new creation is…’ and let your mind say anything it wishes. Maybe write it down because you are going to say this again. And when you say it the second time let you mind come up with a different answer. Do this four more times, each time allowing a different item to fill in the end of the sentence stem.”

He held out his hands open and palm up. “Do you see what you have then? A nice selection of ingredients to use as you wish.”

Quothe smiled and said, “Very good, gentlemen. You have, each of you, a great approach to being creative. I can’t say off hand which is best, or even easiest. That being the case….the drinks are on me. Now, what’ll it be?”

The Creativity Allegory Decoded

Sometimes a new fiddle tune will just drop into my mind by itself. Most recently, I was driving and I saw a sign for rental apartments. The sign said “Sawgrass Creek.” Immediately a tune started playing in my thoughts that was an obvious example of a sawgrass tune.

That’s the pure inspirational creativity that cannot always be planned or relied on. That’s why I often use the juxtaposition method of Coleridge.

An example of that is when I asked, what if you took a tune, like The Black Nag and turned it melodically upside down, applying the principle of reversal. The tune would begin on a downward move, and mirror everything by the opposite. The result is the jig I call “The White Mare.”

I also made up “Kale Beat Down” by reversing the direction of “Bilem Cabbage Down.” And, finally, after meeting the head of the Dunedin Garden Coop, Bree Cheathum, I reversed Bill Cheathum.

The completion of the sentence stem could be taking a few notes and asking what comes next. I haven’t done that. What I did was take the format of a fiddle tune and ask what else could be done.

I examined Red Haired Boy, especially the contrast of chords in the B part. And, yes, I did use the first three notes from the A part, just changing to minor. From there it went in a different direction. The result was Little Beggar Dog. I still play it often. You would not get it confused with the tune that served as the stem.

But, ultimately, with patience, inspiration wins. Even with Coleridge’s artificial creativity, or taking a stem and extending it, inspiration will be invited in to take things to a higher creativity level. It just works that way.

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