It’s All in the Risk: The Creative Edge

September 21st, 2012 | Category: Essays, Videos

There are plenty of people trying to get at the heart of creativity, where it comes from, and how to get there. All of us at some point need that creative spark, and sometimes it can be so elusive it’s difficult to imagine it happening at all. Knowing more about the cognition of creativity is like knowing how a car engine works: It doesn’t make you a better driver. Finding the creative Edge is a far more personal quest.

The Edge, he said, have to find that Edge. He made you hear the capital E. The Edge was Fox’s grail, that essential fraction of sheer human talent, nontransferable, locked in the skulls of the world’s hottest research scientists. — William Gibson, “New Rose Hotel”

Part of conjuring that Edge is making space for it to happen. Finding the space rarely works, so you have to tip it in some way. Just going for it is one way. Setting aside all of your fears of failure, self-editing, and just getting out of your own way. Ice-T puts it bluntly and succinctly [runtime: 1:37]:

Playing it safe isn’t interesting — Ryan Kidwell

As Ice-T mentions, Edge gets you right in the middle of that creative process.* you have to step outside of your comfort zone and find that space where it happens. Like the dreamers in Inception (2010), creating and experiencing the world simultaneously.

If you’ve ever seen anyone rap off the top of their head or improvisation well done, you know what getting in the middle of that process looks like. When someone is truly, spontaneously in the present moment. You can do it with any creative endeavor. Writing and riding are the two activities where I most find I need the Edge, and sometimes lightning does strike, but it’s all too rare.

Alex Burns described that zone to me as “hot space,” the place where creativity is happening in your head right then. After bouts with creative blocks, it’s namesake, Queens 1982 record Hot Space, was recorded in short bursts of studio time. Here’s a clip of them recording “Under Pressure” with David Bowie [the first half of the clip or so; runtime: 7:02]:

Each of us have different limits, but we all have to venture outside of them once in a while. If you never cross the line, you’ll never know where those limits are, and you may never find the Edge you need to get past your obstacles. Push Your Self.

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*This isn’t the first time the worlds of William Gibson and Ice-T have collided. The Iceberg was the leader of the Lo-Teks, “J-Bone,” in the Gibson-penned, 1995 movie, Johnny Mnemonic.

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