I love creating things, whether I'm developing a TED talk, hosting a conversation series for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, giving a talk about creativity, throwing a tea cup, creating a Peabody Award-winning radio show, or cooking dinner.  My first book, Spark: How Creativity Works, is published by Harper and is released as an audio book.  And please check out my podcast series, Pursuit of Spark! There you'll find conversations about creative approaches to the possibilities, challenges, and pleasures of everyday life.

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 Photo by Pavlina Perry


My Spark Talks continue this season at The Met in spring 2015, with a series I'm very excited about, exploring words and images in ancient and modern art and design.  More information here.


Four lessons in Creativity at TED:

Loved leading a workshop on uncertainty and giving a keynote on creativity at Days of Communication Croatia in May.  Wonderful participants, fascinating stories, and a beautiful setting in Rovinj.  

Thrilled with the recent Spark Talk at The Met on April 30, exploring the way artists play with time, with wonderful guests -- musician Laurie Anderson; Rebecca Stead, author of When You Reach Me; astrophysicist and art historian SeungJung Kim; and Met curator Melanie Holcomb.   

It was a pleasure to give the keynote at the Clifford Symposium at Middlebury College.

Mitch Joel and I had a conversation at TED about creativity, which you can hear on Mitch's Six Pixels of Separation Podcast.

Big Think asked me to speak about creativity for three short segments.

Webcast of my talk for educators at the Smithsonian.

My thoughts about creative struggle in SGI Quarterly.


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Today's blog -- Four lessons in creativity.

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Always listening

Ben Burtt was still a graduate student at USC when George Lucas asked him to design the sound for Star Wars.  The first thing Burtt tackled were the light sabers, and he says he had in mind something almost immediately to crate that now iconic sound:

“I was a projectionist at the time at the USC cinema department. In the projection booth there was an interlock motor on the projectors that made a wonderful hum. It was a musical hum, and sounded like a light saber to me. So I recorded that sound.”

But the projector’s hum alone didn’t sound quite fierce enough to him, so he kept hunting.

“I was doing some other recording in my apartment. I had a broken microphone cable which, when I carried the mike past the television set, picked up ‘buzz’ from the TV picture tube. Just the kind of thing you normally would not want in your recording. You’d reject it. But I thought, ‘Oh, that buzz sounds dangerous.’ So I combined the buzz with the hum of the projectors. The two together became the basic light saber sound.”

Ben Burtt says that he’s always listening for new sounds to use in the movies, whether he wants to or not, and that his passion for sound goes way, way back:

“As a child, I remember playing with my grandfather’s shortwave ham radio set in the blisteringly hot attic of his Ohio home during summer visits. I loved tuning between stations and listening to all the tones and beeps and whistles and static. Often I will do that today. I’ll turn on a shortwave radio, put it next to the bed, and mistune it somehow so I’m really not hearing any station directly. There’s something cosmic and enchanting about the endlessly different textures of random noises and tones—I find that it opens my mind. I find peace and excitement at the same time. So I guess that’s something that I’m always going back to.”

You can hear Ben Burtt on Studio 360 this week here, when Kurt Andersen and I talk about artists who take familiar materials and transform the way we see – and hear—the world. 

I love Burtt’s description of finding peace and excitement at the same time – is there a place where you go to find both?

Photo by dryfish.



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Reader Comments (1)

Dear Julie, I can't wait to read Spark. For 30 years I collected creative and logical quotations from hundreds of sources while I taught in Scotland and Virginia. The title is The World's Most Creative (And Dangerous) Quote Book, www.knowords.com. It opens as a door and turns into two books. I am now collecting blurbs from famous creative people. This isn't the usual way to get an agent or a publishing contract. For 30 years I've been in classrooms and not in the media or making lots of money. If you have an extra moment, look at my book at knowords. I will tell all of my friends about your new book. On Twitter I am Wylieknowords. I follow you on the radio and Twitter. Your fan, N.Wylie Jones

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterN. Wylie Jones
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