"Minds are like flowers. If you let it sit there without soaking anything up, it will dry up." -- Ken Hill
This is the time when many flowers appear because the plants soak up spring showers. This is also the time when you can soak up information from the spring educational opportunities. I recently attended a lecture by Troy Hooser that was hosted by my local magic club. The World Clown Association and Clowns of America International both have their annual conventions in the spring. I will be attending the Branson Magic Bonanza next month. (Although the word magic is in the title, this is not just for magicians. The emphasis of the conference is on showmanship which can be applied to many variety arts skills. Many clowns attend this conference.) There are many other educational opportunities this spring.
Another way to soak up knowledge and inspiration is reading a biography of an entertainer or other notable person. I recently read a very interesting biography of Isaac Asimov. Asimov wrote popular science books and articles as well as science fiction and mystery stories. I learned that Asimov believed attending science fiction conventions was valuable because of the opportunity to talk with other authors and fans. Asimov was himself a science fiction fan and admired several of the other writers. He supported other authors by co-editing anthologies to insure that their work was not forgotten and that they would receive additional income from their previous work. I discovered that one key to his tremendous creative output was his diversity. He had many projects going at the same time. If he encountered difficulty with a story, he would switch to an article. Often when he returned to the story after allowing it to incubate he realized the solution to his problem. He wrote a science fiction series known as the Foundation stories and a separate series about robots. He kept the two separate so that if one failed the other might succeed. Also, his work was cumulative. He started his Foundation stories as a series of short stories. Eventually he collected the stories together to form the basis for his Foundation book trilogy. Towards the end of his career, he combined the Foundation and robot series by writing new books linking the two together.
I am currently reading Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man That You've Never Heard Of, a biography of the nineteenth century clown by David Carlyon. I am impressed and inspired by the generosity and philanthropy of Rice, even during periods when he was having personal financial difficulties.
Another way to soak up ideas and inspiration is attending performances by others. On my previous trips to Branson, MO I have seen some outstanding performances that were part of the magic conference. I have also gone to other performances at theaters in that town. I haven't copied ideas from those shows, but they did start trains of thought that led to new routines that I did perform. Also, by seeing the quality of those performances I am inspired to strive to improve the quality of my own performances.
If you can't go to see those performances in person, you can see outstanding performances on video. The Puckett Family of entertainers visited my home this weekend. Esther Puckett, their daughter, surprised us with an improvised bit, and then said it was inspired by Gracie Allen, of the Burns & Allen team. The family has been checking DVDs out of their local library to study. They have been watching Burns & Allen, Abbott & Costello, Lucille Ball and other old time great comedians. Matthew Puckett, their son, has mastered the Who's On First routine and performed it with one of his friends.
Something that I really like about DVDs is the extra features providing insights into the creative process. I recently watched "Monsters vs Aliens." According to the special features the movie's creators grew up watching monster movies fifty years ago. They decided to do a movie paying homage to those films and started with the premises that those types of monsters would be reintroduced into a contemporary environment. While working on the new movie they created poster's for movies their new characters might have appeared in fifty years ago. That was part of making those characters real to them.
How can you use Asimov's example? How can you have multiple projects to minimize the effects of failure or creative blocks? What would being a fan of other entertainers change what you do? How can you suport other entertainers? How can you build upon your past work in the future?
What can you do to soak up knowledge, inspiration, and new ideas?