John Cleese: Create a Tortoise Enclosure for Your Mind


"I want to be as well-informed as I can possibly be before I die" -John Cleese, in a speech on creativity, sleeping on problems, rewrites, and creating "tortoise enclosures" for your mind by creating boundaries of space and time. This is a brilliant little ten-minute talk for anyone who's interested in writing or any other creative pursuit. I wish it went on longer, as this man really does have a lot to say about his subject.

Here's a sample quote:

"When I suddenly discovered that I could sit down with a blank sheet of paper and two hours later I could have written something that then made people laugh -- this was an extraordinary moment for me, and I thought, 'My goodness, I am creative.' So, because I had been brought up as a scientist -- I got into Cambridge on Science -- I started observing what was going on when I was creating. "... The first thing that I noticed was that when I was trying to write a sketch at night and I got stuck or I couldn't think of an ending, or I couldn't see how to continue the sketch, I would go to bed. And when I woke up in the morning and made myself a cup of coffee and went back to my desk and looked at the problem, not only was the solution to this problem immediately apparent to me, but I couldn't even remember what the problem had been the previous night. ... I began to believe that this business of 'sleeping on the problem' ... was absolutely extraordinary."

Another choice Cleese nugget after the jump.

"To know how good you are at something requires the same skills that it does to be good at that thing. Which means, if you're absolutely hopeless at something, you lack exactly the skills that you need to know that you're absolutely hopeless at it. And this is a profound discovery. That most people who have absolutely no idea what they're doing, have absolutely no idea that they have no idea what they're doing. It explains a great deal of life. It explains, particularly, Hollywood."

(Via Kung Fu Grippe, the awesome blog of Merlin Mann; he got it from Tape Noise Diary who got it from Broadcasting Brain, update: who got it from Ewan McIntosh, who got it from Tessy, who got it from Benjamin Ellis.)