Got your attention? Good, because yesterday’s CAVE keynote address featured 2 of the most creative thinkers today: Angelo Satira, CEO of deviantART, the world’s largest online community for artists and art enthusiasts, and Neil Gaiman, award-winning author of Stardust, American Gods, Sandman, and Coraline.
deviantART: Create > inspire > empower > create
Angelo Satira founded deviantART, an online community where, in his words, “art meets application” as a way to give creative people, artists whose work would not normally be seen, a place where they would have the courage to open up.
In the beginning, every staff member commented on every piece posted to the site. Angelo made sure that as the community grew, members of this community would carry on this connection with each other. He wanted the site to be a “force for good.”
Angelo believes that having this community, which as become the “largest aggregation of creative people in one place in all of history" has actually has inspired its members to create more art. It’s become a place for inspiration, a sounding board, and maybe even an escape. A place where people create, get inspired, feel empowered, and go on to create some more.
Okay, but what about the cats?
“We tend to see the world as big, heavy, huge, etc., whereas imagination is the world of daydreaming and foolishness,” he said. “Yet, if you think about it, imagination made everything. We downplay dreaming and imagination. Writers are the worst. We get asked where we get our ideas come from and we make fun of you for saying that. The reason I did was because I didn’t have a clue about where I get ideas from.”
But there came a time when he had to find the answer. “At my kids' school, when these 7-year-olds asked the question, I had to tell them the truth. I said, ‘The important thing about ideas is we get them from daydreaming, from being bored. You ask ‘What if? What if you woke up one day and your sister turned into a house? What if you learned that your teacher is going to eat one of you at the end of the semester?’”
According to Neil, imagining is the most important thing you need to do. You need to ask:
- What if…
- If only…
- I wonder…
- If this goes on (such as phones keep getting smarter), then what?
“Wouldn’t it be interesting if cats ruled the world…or stopped ruling the world?”
According to Neil, the place where ideas come from is confluence, where 2 things you know come together and you are thinking about them in a way you've never had before. “We all know about werewolves. Take that idea and wander with it. What happens if a wolf bites a goldfish? What if one bit a chair and you’re sitting in it when a moonbeam strikes it and it starts to turn hairy? Fiction is a process of imagining, of putting 2 things together and trusting that process.”
Neil advised the attendees to treasure their mistakes too. He was typing Caroline and a typo made it Coraline. Thinking that was an interesting name, “I imagined a person named Coraline. What would she be like?” he said.
How does he handle those “black days” when the writing doesn’t come? “I am always allowed to stare out the window and do nothing, but can’t do something other than writing. After about 5 minutes, writing seems more interesting,” he said. On bad days, he advised, “Make something. No matter how stupid it seems, how much rubbish it seems, then the next day you look at it and it’s not actually that bad.”
“I would love it if there was difference between what I produce on a good day or bad day,” Neil said. “But down the road I don’t know what was written on what day. It just all looks like something that was written by me. You can’t fix something that isn’t there. You can always fix something that is.”
Good words indeed.