Creative Suggestions

One of the great things I have found about teaching is how much you end up learning. The best way to learn about something is to help someone else do it.

As part of my teaching, recently I interviewed a guest, Paula McMath, who came in with amazing material prepared for the class. I am going to share excerpts of one section here — it comes form a handout she gave the class called "An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth."

I don't know where it came from, or who wrote it — and I am editing it for focus and length here. If you are so motivated, I am sure you can find the whole thing on the Internet somewhere.

So here are some suggestions for your process in writing:

Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on.

Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you'll never have real growth.

Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we've already been.

Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question.

Study. A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study.

Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly Postpone criticism.

Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice—begin anywhere.

Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.

The best way to learn about something is to help someone else do it

Harvest ideas—edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.

Keep moving. The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.

Slow down. Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.

Don't be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence.

Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with strife, friction, exhilaration, delight, and creative potential.

Allow space for the ideas you haven't had yet, and for the ideas of others.

Stay up late. Strange things happen when you've gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you're separated from the rest of the world.

Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.

Be careful to take risks. Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.

Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things.

Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.

Stand on someone's shoulders. You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.

Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.

Don't clean your desk. You might find something in the morning that you can't see tonight.

Don't enter awards competitions. Just don't. It's not good for you.

Make new words. Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.

Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device dependent.

Organization = Liberty. Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise.

Don't borrow money. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It's not exactly rocket science, but it's surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.

Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.

Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic-simulated environment.

Make mistakes faster.

Imitate. Don't be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You'll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable.

Scat. When you forget the words, do what Ella did—make up something else.

Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

You can contact Michael Anderson through


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