May 19, 2008
Posted by: Mark Siegel
Categories: :01 Stop: Watch

[From the desk of Gabe Soria]


"The Rut" – it sounds like an epic boogie rock
instrumental, doesn’t it? A real choogly Leslie West-meets-Billy Squier jam.
Well, I wish it was. To me, though, it’s a daily challenge that I have to strive
to get over. Most of us "creatives" probably have a similar story. Hell, that’s
arrogant – most people, period, have ruts they have to get over in their daily
lives to allow them to continue what they’re doing and keep on keepin’

But right now, as I start working on my next book for First Second
with St. John Frizell and Simon Fraser, I’m concerned pretty much with my own
Rut, my creative one. It’s the impulse that drives me to distraction and
frippery when I’m sitting at the old typing machine, trying to pound out some
inspiration. The only REAL answer to the Rut, at least to me, is discipline –
turn off that internet connection, don’t check that email or that movie blog and
just put nose to grindstone for hours on end.

Unfortunately, I’m a bad
disciplinarian, and the Rut rears its ugly head again and again, from day to
day. And when discipline doesn’t work, I have to look to other avenues to help
spur the creative impulse, and that’s what this blog entry is about – things I
use to inspire and push myself to actually get good (should that last word be in
quotes) stuff done. And in the interest of brevity, I’m just going to drop one
of the many methods I use.

One of my favorite techniques to spur
creativity is to use Oblique Strategies, a method for spurring creative thought
developed by one of my heroes, Brian Eno, along with the artist Peter Schmidt in
the mid-70s. Taking the form of a deck of cards with a cryptic zen-like koan
printed on each, the Oblique Strategies are little, gnomic pushes in directions
you may or may not want to go with your work. Meant to be taken as seriously (or
un-seriously) as you’d like, they’re pretty neat little things – kind of like
having a deck of tarot cards crossed with Yoda and a hyper-intelligent record
producer in your back pocket. I was introduced to the cards through a scene in
Richard Linklater’s 1991 film Slacker, which is one of my favorite films ever
and which might explain a lot.

Unfortunately, "real" decks of Oblique
Strategies can cost quite a bit of money. You could make your own, if you’re so
inclined, but I just use an elegant little Dashboard widget for my Mac,
available here:

I’m thinking that soon I might have to switch to a completely analog version of
everything – notebook for writing and real deck of Oblique Strategies for
inspiration, because constantly going to my Dashboard to pick a card… well, it
can be kind of distracting sometimes.

Gabe Soria

title of this blog post is the motto on the Oblique Strategy card I pulled when
trying to figure out what to write for this entry.)

More information
about the Oblique Strategies:

Brian Eno creative inspiration game, in which he invented William Gibson/Neal
Stephenson-esque sci-fi alter-egos for David Bowie and his band during the
recording of the latter’s 1995 album:

Um, can somebody out there please do a comics version of the Oblique Strategies?


3 Comments on “ Do Something Boring* ”

  • John A. Walsh | May 19th, 2008 9:55 am

    Word was that Eno had U2 use those decks when they created “Achtung Baby”—the result being a great album. Eno is an interesting guy…cool to see him mentioned here!

  • BradyDale | May 22nd, 2008 10:08 am

    I do all my first drafts analog. I can write really well out of my house in a notebook, but you have to get that stuff into the computer, and that’s always the slow part. I find ways to make that part creative, too… not just looking at the page and typing but reading over what I wrote and then sort of writing it again from scratch. That engages the brain a little more,
    but it still goes slowly,
    because the Internet is there, and I can’t quite bring myself to turn it off.

  • Logo Design | August 29th, 2011 4:36 am

    I received the book yesterday and couldn’t put it down until I finished it. It’s a fabulous, unique book, and I look forward to using it in my classroom. A winner in my eyes!

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