“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” ― Albert Einstein
Over the last 25 years, I’ve been a professional writer; I have been repeatedly asked to teach people my creative process. My only rationalisation of this, which is most definitely a result of crippling self-esteem issues, is that those that ask must think I’m either cheating or using a formula.
I wish it were that easy.
When it comes to the creative process, my first bit of advice usually leaves the receiver of the advice with a look of one that just discovered their grandparent doing hot yoga in the nude.
The advice is two simple words; “Be Absurd.”
When I’m teaching a new person to the comedy writing scene, this advice seems almost mundane. With the comedy world filled with absurdity, there is a perception, especially when people are starting that and idea is “too silly” or worse “, too stupid” and no one wants to be laughed at. Ironic for an industry where you’re trying to make people laugh.
The second bit of advice I have answers that feeling, and that is “if you feel stupid, then you’re doing it right.”
Being absurd, however, is not just exclusive to comedy. Intoxicating and glorious absurdity is across so many mediums, inventions, innovations, and civilisation.
Think of your favourite film, TV show, or book. It’s full of absurdity. Those things wouldn’t happen in “real life”, which is what makes them fun. Even when a film is retelling reality, they embellish it for dramatic effect, which is an excellent way of saying “making it absurd.”
Absurdity sparks originality. A movie about “Star Wars?” Absurd. Landing a human being on the moon? Absurd. Building a giant statue that represents “liberty” and then gifting it to the Americans? Absurd. Yet, these original ideas have become iconic. What’s to say the “crazy” idea that you have isn’t the next one?
There is joy in creating absurd scenarios for the characters I write about. It’s fiction, things can be as mad as I want them to be, and I can always pull back when I edit if I go too far.
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” – Robin Williams
Don’t let the perception of others inhibit your creativity. Don’t think about those that might criticise your ideas, think about the ones that will think they are deliciously wonderful.
Take an idea to its breaking point, stretch it, twist it, add flavours to it that don’t belong there, and then shake off the excess to expose the brilliance.
If your creative brain doesn’t allow this right away, I do exercise for you to help. Every day, come you with a short and absurd scenario. Push yourself to do this every day, and you will let that “spark of madness” be the one that drives the creative train.
Absurd ideas have created the modern world. The fact that we are where we are as a species is inherently absurd. So, please don’t shy away from it.