Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

George Carlin On Creativity

Let’s talk about your material. Do jokes and premises just come to you, or do you actively sit and try to think of funny things?

It comes to me. Part of my leaving the media on all day is a way of…my mind has trained itself to have a very sensitive system of radar about certain words, expressions, topics, and areas of discussion that come up. There are things that interest me more than others, and then there are things that jump out. There’s one thing I learned about the mind as a young man, when I quit school. I read a book – half of it, anyway – called Psycho-Cybernetics. The author said that the brain is a goal-seeking and problem-solving machine, and if you put into it the parameters of what it is you need or want or expect, and you feed it, it will do a lot of work without you even noticing. Because the brain does that. It forms neural networks. There are areas in your brain that communicate with one another because of a need they perceive that they have – if you have trained yourself passively or actively, which I have – to look for certain kinds of things to say, and certain kinds of things to compare. Because a lot of comedy is comparing – the things that are cultural or social or language-oriented, or just plain silly. My brain got used to the fact that that made it feel good – that I liked finding those things. So the brain does networking on its own where those connections get made, and pretty soon there’s an automatic process going on all the time that leaves out a lot of unimportant or less interesting areas, and concentrates on areas it has trained itself to passively look for. Because it knows that when it finds one of them, you’re going to feel good! Oh, boy, I found another one! Let’s go back to work and find some more of these for him. What I do is, I collect my notes. I have about 1,300 separate files in my computer – they change from week to week, because I combine or expand files – and they are 44 years worth of collecting thoughts, notions, ideas, pieces of data, and material. Anything I think might have promise for my writing sometime in the future goes on a piece of paper, and that becomes a stack of papers, and that gets a topic title. The scientist is at work with the little artist – he’s got a scientist buddy – and this guy’s indexing things and figuring out categories, and that stuff goes in the computer. And every time you see it, touch it, look at it, or think of it, it gets deeper in the brain, the network gets deeper, and at some point, it gets to be a telling mass that says to you, “OK. Take a look at this now. This is gonna be funny. You got enough data, take a look at this.” So I’m drawn to something and start writing about it, and then you really start writing, and that’s when the real ideas pounce out, and new ideas, and new thoughts and images, and then bing, ba-bam ba-boom, that’s the creative part.

From an interview with Larry Getlin