Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Three Questions about Creativity with Baratunde Thurston

Three weeks ago I'd never heard of Baratunde Thurston. Then I heard an interview with the comedian/author/entrepreneur on Marc Maron's WTF podcast. He sounded like an interesting dude, and what became apparent very quickly in the interview was that he was a man with a lust for life and and that he had seemingly bottomless reserves of energy and creativity. I quickly bought and read his great book, How to be Black.

I would go through his bio for you, but it's too damn long! You can check out his many ventures on his website here. Suffice to say, his curiosity for the world is insatiable, and when I find people like that, I just want to saw open their heads and probe their brains.

So, how does a dude who grew up in crack-era Washington DC, end up going to Harvard and selling a New York Times bestseller?

I've talked before about finding your lane, your passion, and going for it in whatever way you can. Baratunde discovered this early, thanks to a school friend.

I was a math and science kid almost entirely through high school and had no great appreciation for writing academically or for fun. A schoolmate of mine suggested I write for the high school newspaper. His name was Dave, and I don't know why he thought I'd be good at it, but he was right, and I was hooked.  

Once you've found something you love to do, find ways to keep it going.  

Once I got to university, I joined the daily college newspaper, but that wasn't enough. My frustration with how little my classmates new about the news inspired me to create a comedic newsletter called NewsPhlash. I ran it all four years, and the spirit of that experiment still powers much of my writing today: an attempt to deliver occasionally useful information in a comedic and entertaining package. 

Once Uni is over and you have to enter the real world, following your dream and indulging your creative self gets a lot more difficult because you have more responsibilities. Again, find ways to keep doing what you love, keep exploring to discover new passions, and find ways to motivate yourself to keep going.

I get excited about new things in general -- new outlets for expression, new ways of communicating the same message, so I think I'm naturally drawn to experiment with the shiny new things. Competition also keeps me motivated, both competing with others and also with my past self. I like trying to out-do what I've already put out in the world. The last motivator is impact. On occasion I'll get feedback from someone who's been affected by my work, and it's just enough to keep me from abandoning the entire enterprise for whiskey-soaked afternoons at the pub. 

Motivation comes in many forms, and you need to use it your advantage. Know your motivations and use them to power your output! 

So now you should be a curious and motivated person; but what about those times when you've just gotten out of bed, plonked down in front of the computer and your neurons aren't ready to fire up just yet. What do you do?

I prompt myself with raw material from the world, usually in the form of news. I also take moments to look back over my own recent notes and public statements to see if a new pattern or thesis emerges. On any given day, I may not be adding anything brilliant to the world, but if I take an hour to look back over a few months of work, sometimes I see something new or larger than any individual piece. All this is something I might call The Devour Method. Getting myself saturated in media/information usually inspires some connection, new thought, and then a thesis or project to commence.

What are you interested in? Dance? Well, maybe watch a bunch of you-tubes of street choreography to get you pumped!

Here's the takeaway - find your passion and follow it with everything you have, work out what motivates you to do it, and use the world as your jumping off point.

Baratunde has become a success through indulging his creativity in a variety of ways. He also knows what keeps him going. Finding your passion is just the beginning. You need to discover what gets you going and what keeps you motivated, and make those changes a part of your life.

Baratunde Thurston runs the company cultivatedwit, an awesome start-up that aim to develop solutions at the intersection of technology and comedy, by humorous storytelling and through ushering new products into the world in fun and interesting ways.

Baratunde is also an accomplished stand-up comedian. Here's he speaks at SXSW on the power of comedy.

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