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Creativity from ignorance

Sheer ignorance – you know, there’s no confidence to equal it.’ – Orson Welles.

After reading two excellent posts today on the trend towards banality (Martin Weigel on ‘fighting the astro-turfing of culture’, and Alex Murrell’s ‘the age of average’) my thoughts turned to this fantastic film featuring journalist Huw Wheldon interviewing Orson Welles in 1960.

In it Orson talks about how he was able to create a masterpiece like Citizen Kane despite having no prior experience of filmmaking at all. Hollywood studios were approaching him about making a film but he was (discussed at 5.25) able to gain complete artistic control because they wanted him more than he wanted them. When asked (at 6.18) where he got the confidence from to embark on such a project and pull off so many technical and creative advances, he replies that it came from complete ignorance about filmmaking:

‘…it’s only when you know a profession that you’re timid or careful…if you come up from the bottom in the film business you’re taught (to avoid) all the things that the cameraman doesn’t want to attempt for fear he will be criticised for having failed.’

The camera operator on the film was very experienced, but sometimes expertise can limit your thinking. Being aware of this, and of the power of imagination and creativity to break through norms can help us to avoid getting boxed in by our own thinking. It’s like Shoshin, the concept from Zen Buddhism. Bringing a beginner’s mind to solving challenges.

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