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Ze Frank on creativity and "morphological synthesis"

cecil vortex: An Interview with Ze Frank

Cecil Vortex recently talked with with Ze Frank about the creative process, including how he came up with new stuff every day for The Show. Lots of good stuff to glean from this short interview, including how Ze employs an association trick called "morphological synthesis."

CV: Do you have any day-to-day habits you rely on?

ZF: I make something every day -- I think that's really the only habit that I've fallen into over the last few years. No matter what, I make something....That aside, there's this thing I try to do that I call "brain surfing." Do you know the technique "morphological synthesis"?

CV: I don't.

ZF: There's a really beautiful book by James L. Adams called Conceptual Blockbusting [amzn, isbn --mm]. It's a book that was written in the '70s on creativity. The idea is, you just start with a concept that's immediate to you. I mean "immediate" in that you have some kind of direct emotional connection to it in that moment. And it can be as simple as a word. Maybe somebody pissed you off in line, or you're worried that your toe is broken. And you just start with that and begin to associate things with it. It's not really free association, so it's not just anything that comes to mind. But you tell little stories to yourself that move you away from that initial concept.

So if it's your toe being broken, you start thinking to yourself, well, what would happen if something else was broken and you tried to drive a car? Then you move away from that and you think about the worst car race ever. Now you've moved into a demolition derby. And you just sort of work in circles. At different points you stop and relate wherever you are back to the original concept. And just play. Sometimes I write these things down on paper, and sometimes I just sit there and do them in my head. But for me, it's a nice little play zone where you can find very weird and silly things.

[ via: Interview with Ze Frank on creativity | MetaFilter ]

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




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