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10 Creativity Lessons from George Carlin (Part Three, Plus a Bonus Lesson!)

Today is the last installment of my literary journey through George Carlin's "Last Words". I expected to get a bit of insight into Carlin's life (I did) and a few laughs (yep!), but I never expected to get such inspiration about writing from this comedian's life story. You never know what will rev up the creative engines!

Some Last Words About "Last Words"

  1. The Creative Well Doesn't Go Dry
"The truth is, I can't run out of ideas--not as long as I keep getting new information and I can keep processing it." --George Carlin
You have no choice but to keep filling up your creative well. It may not seem like this is the case, especially when you're struggling to get the words out from the deep recesses of your well, but the ideas are there. The problem is not running out of ideas, but nurturing the ideas that you do have. Allowing yourself to worry that what you are writing now is the last great idea you will ever have will paralyze you-- and if you aren't actively paying attention to potential ideas, they will wither away. As long as you are alive and aware, you are going to have material. You can't focus on any ideas, current or potential, when distracted by unnecessary worry. Don't allow your Inner Editor tell you otherwise. If the only reason you're avoiding adding a great idea to your current work is that you are afraid you may not find something as good for your next one, chuck that excuse. Use it now.

Not only will it set your idea free, it will also free your mind to continue seeing the world through a writer's lens. Think of it as putting your ideas into an interest bearing account--your current work is that account! Leaving it unused is like stuffing your money into your mattress, sure you feel more secure with it there, but it's not working for you. Using your current creativity creates dividends!

  1. Your Job As Reporter Of Life
As a writer, you take on the responsibility of translating the human experience into words. Even if you are not a journalist, part of living up to this means capturing all of those potential ideas so they can be used later. Carlin kept a sort of continuous journal of his thoughts about current events in addition to copious notes of sentences, thoughts, neat phrases, "two things that connect or contrast", and more. He didn't know exactly what would become of each snippet as he added it, but that didn't matter to him, and it shouldn't to you either. It's your job to have those things that struck you for some reason readily available in your tool chest when you go to build the (as yet unknown) intended work.

You may want to try and organize these notes in some way, so you can see the themes that are appearing. If your files of bird sightings becomes full, your muse may be guiding you toward a local magazine piece about bird watching, or a character in your novel may be wishing she could fly away. It will be up to you and your muse how the writing will evolve, but once it becomes clear, the writing will flow easier because the ideas are already within reach.

        10. "This whole thing is probably about connecting." --George Carlin

I received my Bachelor's degree in Human Communication partly because I felt it embodied the very essence of what it means to be alive and part of the world. Without communication, we would all just be sacks of skin and bones bumping into each other, literally; without communication, there's no way to tell someone to "Get out of the way!", there's no signs directing traffic. We would be lost.
All forms of writing act as ways for us to find each other, even as we are finding ourselves. Nobody else has the exact same perspective as you, and yet you write so that others may see something in themselves in your writing. Being creative is the ultimate form of communication, that handy tool we must use to connect with the ideas of life, both big and small.

The reason behind why we write is often lost in all of the noise of the Business of Writing-- platform, social networking, royalties, sales... It is easy to get caught up and forget the deep need that is driving us all in the first place. Although important, it can't be all about the potential to make money. There are thousands of other ways to make a buck that don't conjure up such intense emotions. A success or failure in creative work, work from the heart, mirrors the deepest recesses of our selves. We feel the pride or hurt deep down and it impacts how we believe we are being perceived by the rest of the world. It's not often as simple as working in exchange for money-- with our writing, we are exchanging a bit of our own souls to carve out a little place for ourselves and our vision within the world community.

Thanks for indulging my little trip through George Carlin's mind. I would love to hear your thoughts on these or the other lessons from the last few posts!

Bonus Lesson--
Do You Write Ad Copy? Here's a nifty little trick to make sure you aren't talking "Ad-Speak". It's based on Carlin's Advertising Lullaby:

Happy Writing!


  1. This was a great series. I've always enjoyed his comedy, but it sounds as though he had a lot of important things to say about the creative process as well. Thanks for putting it all together like this. Now I want to read the book!


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