Bob Dylan on emptying your mind, tapping into the subconscious, and letting the words flow.
Timeless advice on writing and creativity from this surprise Nobel laureate of literature.
A couple years ago the Nobel Committee for Literature nominated and selected a suprise candidate:
Yeah, that's right. The Bob Dylan who's written and produced some of the world's finest songs. The same Bob Dylan who's legendary antics with the press are only outweighed by his surprise dismissal of politics.
Writers can learn a lot from the cryptic comments on the creative process that he's shared wit the public over the years. Here are a few of his best nuggets of wisdom.
Be passionate, or don't do it at all
“When I start writing a song, I like to put together a real detailed outline first. Then I hand it over to some freelancers I know from the advertising business, and they hash out the chords and the lyrics while I cruise down to the club for a quick nine holes. Much more efficient this way. Production is up 23% this quarter. The market needs product, man. Gotta feed the beast.”
Let the world inspire you
“Get outside. Get out into the world, man! You wanna read poetry, look at the stars. Light a candle and write under the new moon. That’s when The Operator comes to whisper the Secret Words to you.”
Sometimes getting inspired is as simple as sitting down and getting words on the page. When that doesn't work, Dylan has the perfect remedy. Get out into the world, read a book, learn something new, shut up and let your muse speak.
Sort out your writing space
"For me, the environment to write the song is extremely important. The environment has to bring something out in me that wants to be brought out. It’s a contemplative, reflective thing... Environment is very important. People need peaceful, invigorating environments. Stimulating environments."
Dylan with this engimatic, almost contradictory advice, says get your writing space right. If you're not at peace, go somewhere else. If you're not stimulated, find another seat.
Observation is more important than inspiration
"It’s nice to be able to put yourself in an environment where you can completely accept all the unconscious stuff that comes to you from your inner workings of your mind. And block yourself off to where you can control it all, take it down."
Once you get comfy, your job is to be a recorder of the unconscious. When you're writing, let all the information you have flow like water. Once it's on the page you can rearrange it however you see fit.
Overthinking kills creativity
“Creativity is like a freight train going down the tracks. It’s something that has to be caressed and treated with a great deal of respect... you’ve got to program your brain not to think too much.”
Dylan says you've got to quiet your mind. Once you do that the first sentence can flow and from it the rest. So, let it flow.