Creativity and imagination from Star Wars


Star Wars figuresI was born at exactly the right time to live through the Star Wars phenomenon as it happened. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To older, more boring unimaginative people, Star Wars was just a film, albeit a very popular one with people queuing around the block to get tickets to see it, that broke new ground with special effects.

But to me it was like witnessing the Gospel.

I was the last to see it at my school. I was six years old. I badgered Sean as to what it was like. I knew there were robots in it, a gold humanoid one and a small Dalek-like one. I asked him if R2D2 had a gun, did he shoot like Daleks did? Sean couldn’t remember. Couldn’t remember? How could he not remember? I was busting to see it. I started to guess what it was about and made up a story that I thought might fit the bill.

We went to Newcastle one Saturday. There was an enormous poster of Darth Vader’s head covering the front of the cinema. I’d only been to the cinema once before, to see a Children’s Film Foundation film about a hot air balloon. We were given a programme in the foyer that introduced us to the concepts in the film.

The next day we had Star Wars Weetabix for breakfast. There were transfers in the packet that you could rub onto a diorama on the back of the box, of Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi’s lightsabre duel on the Death Star. We had to finish the packet before we could cut the box up. We’d never eaten so much Weetabix.

That was 1977, Jubilee year. This week, Jubilee year again and 35 years later to the day, I opened up the Sacred Glass Cabinet at the top of the stairs. It contains my 100+ Star Wars Action Figures. Mabel (4), Verity (nearly 2) and I selected a (large) collection and we took them downstairs and along with lego we created an adventure story. (Neither of the girls have seen Star Wars).

This is what they came up with:

Princess Leia (in Bespin outfit), R2D2, C3PO, TC14, and a friendly Jawa arrived in their snowspeeder to an ancient ruined pyramid which the team suspected contained a great secret. R2 went in through the gap in the wall, but didn’t return. C3PO was too nervous to investigate so Princess Leia called for help and Chewbacca and Hammerhead arrived in a landspeeder. Hammerhead’s big hands managed to move more bricks and Chewie went inside only to be met by a fierce Gammorean Guard. It turned out he wasn’t a baddie, he wanted to warn them of the unsafe structure. Chewie and Bossk went carefully in and pulled out R2 and a Death Star Droid who was in need of repair. 9D9 and Powerdroid got him working again and he told of the treasure that was still inside the pyramid. Working together they removed enough bricks to pull the treasure out. The Princess changed into her ceremonial white dress and it was time for everyones lunch.

Stories happen!

My girls were doing exactly what I’d done all those years ago. Star Wars figures are wonderful because they are so interesting. Palitoy seemed to deliberately make figures of all the minor characters and leave out many of the main ones. You couldn’t get Grand Moff Tarkin (played on screen by Peter Cushing) who’s central to the story. But you could get Death Star Commander, who you see for two seconds in the background.

My brother and I never played with them to re-create scenes from the film, instead we’d create characteristics and adventures for these lesser-known creatures, people and droids. R5D4, Dengar or Snaggletooth may only have appeared in the films for less than a second, but that’s what made them so fascinating. They could be whoever we wanted them to be.

I never got a Millennium Falcon playset, or the so obviously not-to-scale rubbish cardboard Death Star. I didn’t get the Jawa Sandcrawler, Boba Fett’s Slave One spaceship or the exciting giant AT-AT snow walkers either. They were all far too expensive and elaborate.

But I’ve never been so grateful for anything from my childhood as I am for NOT getting those toys for Christmas because it meant that instead I made my own.

I collected my Mum’s perfume bottle tops, cardboard, any plastic packaging. It was all saved up, glued together and painted. I had far better playsets than the ones prescribed by Palitoy and learnt model making into the bargain.

Oh, and the story I expected to see before I seen the actual film? I wrote it down and developed it as my own movie franchise with its own characters, robots and monsters. I even made action figures of them using Fimo.

I don’t think I’m particularly unique in having an imagination. Every child has one. But it needs to be developed and encouraged. I think it was mainly good luck that I became embroiled in Star Wars at the age I did in the way I did. It was such a good vehicle for the imagination. It still is. It’s a simple story, but so well told with such background depth that’s perfect fertile ground for the seeds of a child’s imagination to take root, explore and grow.

I believe we need to teach children how to play – not all of them can learn how to do it on their own. And I believe we need to give them the tools of play but need to be careful not to over prescribe too tight a formula and format. With many modern toys and especially computer games I feel there’s a real risk of that.

If your child finds more interest in the box the toy came in rather than the toy itself – keep watch, something interesting may be happening in that imagination of theirs…

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com


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Why our children need to write Science Fiction


4th Doctor Tom Baker and black Dalek SecThe starting point didn’t ever bother me. The teacher may have told us to write a story about our families, the supermarket, the past, a walk in the woods or to finish a story from his opening paragraph or anything…

Whatever it was, I’d write just two paragraphs before incorporating a brightly lit saucer landing in the woods, a visitor from the future, a portal into the past, people revealed as aliens, or robots, a curse from ancient Egypt, a primordial evil hiding in a dark lake, a creature in a zoo that turns out to be sentient, an alien invasion is really an intergalactic game of tiddlywinks…

Me aged 13: “He strained his eyes to fix on a unusual shape which was slowly lowering. It was a large saucer shaped object with a gleaming metal hull, reflecting the snow and trees.”

Teachers response: “You are a cunning devil! You managed to introduce what is obviously an interest of yours into”

I always turned the premise into Science Fiction.

And I was criticised and marked down for doing so.

I was driven by a ‘search for interesting’ (to me, a definition of creativity) and a desire to twist the mundane by a turn of the screw to see the ordinary afresh, from a different perspective, to explore the unexpected and to find rationale in the unexplained.

But my teachers didn’t agree. They felt it was childish and unsophisticated.

I think this is a shame. More than a shame. A crisis.

To an outsider, Science Fiction as a genre is still misunderstood and the tendency with poor writing (in some books, some television and films) to rely on clichéd concepts such as unimaginative spaceships, mad robots and generic aliens makes many people overlook the main purpose of Science Fiction (also referred to as SF by purists, but never Sci-Fi). This bias and misunderstanding has in the past alienated many, especially young girls from the genre. It’s interesting to note that the new production of Doctor Who set out with re-dressing this balance and have achieved it with the ratio of girls and boys watching the programme almost equal.

Science Fiction has the unique capabilities to allow a child to explore themselves and their world in non-literal ways.

Science Fiction’s alternative title is ‘Speculative Fiction’. It is stories that are driven by a ‘what if?’ question. The answer to this question is answered by the story using real-world science to extrapolate it and to drive the characters and the plot. Science Fiction keeps most things constant and has one or a few variables that can then be explored.

This is the essential difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy, although the lines are often blurred.

Star Trek, the television and film series is Science Fiction. It has a number of plot devices that are beyond our current technology including teleportation and faster-than-light travel. But within the story framework these technologies are explained in scientific, believable ways with their own rules and limitations that are kept constant within the story. In fact, those two technologies are plot device conceits and not the driving force for the story, they are story enablers. In reality it would take centuries to travel to the stars, the distance between them is so great and it is a complicated and long-winded process to safely travel from orbit to land on a planet. The ‘Warp Drive’ and ‘Transporter’ fictional technologies remove the mundane to tell a much more interesting story. The story of Star Trek, the speculative ‘what if?’ is: ‘what would it be like to travel to strange new worlds and visit new civilisations?’

Harry Potter is not Science Fiction. It too has unrealistic devices, and they are consistent within the world of the story, but these are not explained in any other way other than ‘magic’ and cannot be extrapolated from our understanding of real-world technology. This makes Harry Potter Fantasy.

When it comes to examining the film series Star Wars as a genre, people tend to make an interesting mistake. They often think it is ‘futuristic’ because it features robots and spaceships and yet the opening phrase that begins the film is ‘a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’. This is the same as the well know start to many a story, ‘once upon a time’ and frames Star Wars, like Cinderella, as a fairy tale and not Science Fiction. No serious attempt is made in Star Wars to rationalise space travel, how light sabres work, how the robots appear to be conscious and what The Force is. Star Wars is fantasy disguised as Science Fiction.

Doctor Who is yet more complicated. The premise is Science Fiction: ‘an alien who looks like a man, travels through time and space in a time machine made by a lost civilisation that resembles a 1960s Police Box that is bigger on the inside.’ But unlike other franchises, Doctor Who changes genre from story to story, some stories are straight Science Fiction, some are fantasy, some thriller or historical drama, comedy, tragedy and even romance. Doctor Who is better described as ‘Science Fantasy’.

When teaching children storytelling, I believe it is important for them to realise which overall genre their story is fitting into if it is to include what appear to be Science Fiction elements: are they creating a whole new world with its own rules and physical laws where literally anything can happen? Is so, that’s fantasy (the most solid example in Literature may well be Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings). Or are they keeping most of the rules of the known world and for dramatic effect or as a speculative story driver, choosing to twist, re-invent or magnify one or more real-world rules. If so, they are writing Science Fiction.

This is why Science Fiction is so enthralling, so exciting to read and to write, and so useful to us as a civilisation. It allows us to look at an aspect of ourselves from a different perspective. The stories explored in Star Trek are not really about space travel, aliens and the future, they are all about fragments of ourselves, now. In one story, Captain Kirk and his crew are bemused by a race of people who have one side of their faces black and the other white and yet are fighting each other. When asked why, a man retorts, “Isn’t it obvious! He has the white side on the left and black on the right and we have it the other way round!”. (Let That Be Your Last Battlefield). This Science Fiction allows the story to explore racism.

Children’s relationship to Science Fiction is usually based on the magical attraction of the fantastical otherness of outer space, aliens and the excitement of adventure. But it can also be the appeal of a relationship with a creature such as a robot or alien with whom the child can connect in their own way on their own terms without the trappings of their own weaknesses.

This is why Star Wars worked in the first place: children identified with the cute robots in a way that adults couldn’t and would not. (There’s more on this here). This is why children, especially boys, still love steam engines, cars and other machines which they can easily bestow consciousness into. It also connects to the most primordial of children’s secret fantasies: the imaginary friend. The mobile dustbin-like robot, R2D2, in Star Wars is really a modern variation of the teddy bear.

When children desire to use Science Fiction techniques and motifs they may already be using their writing to explore themselves and their world, without any need for guidance and literally knowledge.

On the surface they may conjure up spaceships and monsters but don’t let these fool us. They may already be using these devices in the same way as the greatest Science Fiction authors, H.G Wells, Issac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, John Wyndham or Ray Bradbury, did, as cloaked methods of exploring and explaining their own inner worlds in a way that straightforward ‘literal’ fiction cannot.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com


The power of stories and how to create creators


Rapunzel cake

Mabel's fairytale cake - with Rapunzel

I’ve become fascinated by the concept of the change from story consumer to story creator (just as I have previously written about the change from music listener to music composer).

Most people would consider themselves a reader, but how many consider themselves a writer? Everyone should, because everyone is (or was, as we’ll see).

Storytelling is not just the most important activity in our lives, storytelling IS our lives.

This is no more noticeable than with my eldest daughter who has just turned 4. Stories are her certainly her life. She wants to be read stories all the time, always wanting to squeeze one more before school or before bedtime. (I found it interesting that she doesn’t use the noun ‘book’, hence her brother, when he did something wrong was “in the bad stories”.)

But now something has changed. She is creating her own stories:

“One day there was a princess in a high castle and she had short hair. And one day a prince rode by and she let down her hair and she fell down because her hair was short and the prince kissed her and she woke up, the end.”

This is obviously a variation on Rapunzel, but what is interesting in that Mabel was aware of what the hair meant and chose to modify the length, negating the original premise and causing a new drama of its own.

This was followed by another variation:

“There was another story with a princess with short hair in a castle which was lower so she could reach the prince. The end.”

This version is a further modification, removing the obstacle to the princess’s desires.

Princesses are the main feature of Mabel’s story worlds but unlike in the real world they are not the female offspring of reigning monarchs but creatures of the same genus as fairies, angels, pixies, witches and girls. They inhabit worlds of magic, are beautiful, wear beautiful dresses, sometimes have wings and sometimes are on the look out for a prince. Sometimes cats have been added to the pantheon giving us the curious creature of a cat fairy princess which Mabel wanted to be dressed up as for a fancy dress party.

But what is a story? Is it an account of past events of a related plot, that link together to create meaning to inform, to entertain or educate? Like any whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, as story is more than the facts, events and characters that inhabit it. This ‘extra’ something is the emotion that the story invokes, the questions it raises (or answers), the connection it makes to our lives by which – and this is the most important bit – we measure and create our own lives.

We must never, ever underestimate the power or stories in our lives, especially with children. Stories provide snatches of narrative and context by which we build our own life biography.

Our constant task in life is to make sense of the seemingly random events that happen to us. Deep down we know there can never really be any coincidences or purposeless randomness. Everything that happens to us MUST happen for a reason. That ability to put facts into context (which is what a story is) is hard wired into our very being.

If, when we can’t weave the story, when we can’t find the meaning, we enter that condition we call depression. In that rehabilitating, powerless state we are not depressed at all, we have lost the thread of the story, we have lost significance of ourselves within our life story and we have lost our meaning.

A life with its meaning and significance is never a depressed one, no matter what seemingly sad and shocking events happen in it.

The loss of a loved one, death, illness, failure – these are the things that can make us depressed if we loose the thread of the story. This is why, when times are at their toughest, that humanity conjures up the next chapter of the story, the reason for the sudden unexpected event, the meaning behind the seemingly unfair or random change. We invent serendipity, we invent superstition, magic, divine and demonic forces. We breath life into the gods.

As adults we consume stories in the forms of news, gossip, cinema, television and radio as well as in novels. Few of us perhaps create those type of stories but we are all still storytellers everyday in our work; communicating our ideas to others, recounting recent events to friends and family. Perhaps we’re not aware that we are not just readers and consumers of these stories. We weave their meaning with the transcript of our own lives and position ourselves in relation to them.

This could be from aligning ourselves with the views of a newspaper columnist, politician, rock star or even a standup comedian, buying into their beliefs and stories and allowing them to run along side our own, giving us a particular framework, political, moral or spiritual with which to run the events of our lives.

Sometimes a particular story, or version of a story, is so potent that it becomes so interwoven with our lives that it defines the direction our life story takes and modifies behavior.

One of the worlds most influential stories in history that has inspired lives for over two thousand years has to be that of the carpenters son who turned out to be God’s son who was rejected by his people, put to death but came back to life. Within that particular tale there are stories that are re-told and relived over and over again: the Last Supper is retold every Sunday in every Church as the service of Communion. The Passion of Christ, his trial, suffering and death is relived every Easter as is his birth in the nativity every Christmas.

But more recent, or more humble stories can and do have transformational effects too.

I’ve known teenagers who changed the direction of their lives to become teachers after seeing the film, The Dead Poets Society. That same story inspired Steve Jobs of Apple in his promotion of the Apple Mac computer as a creative tool in the Think Different campaign.

Star Wars figures C£Po, R2D2, Darth Vader, Princess LeiaTo my generation of children, the story of Star Wars, which was in effect a re-telling of ancient fairy stories, was so potent in its splendor as an exciting alien tale, that it entered our consciousness. It provided what all fairy stories provide; a moral template for good and evil, the concept of the hero’s journey, the quest, where obstacles must be overcome and sacrifices made. The characters are archetypal, but still colourful. Some adults at the time found it hard to see the depth in it and even with the mania that surrounded it’s original release where people queued around the block to get into cinemas, would not have predicted its longevity. Even its creator George Lucas didn’t know the secret of the success of the original film (and the two subsequent films that formed the original trilogy). The prequels that followed twenty years later lacked something. Even though they were more spectacular and exotic that the originals there was perhaps a lack of depth or mystery and less room for the imagination to weave within the story. This isn’t surprising or unusual. It’s not the artists job to understand their art. It is the job of the audience.

In 1977, a colleague of my Dad’s was round at our house. He’d been to see the original ilm, as had nearly everyone, to ‘see what al the fuss was about’. The opening scene, as you may remember features no human characters. For the first ten minutes we are expected to engage with a gold metal man and a walking, twerping dustbin on wheels in the white corridors of a spaceship that has been swallowed by a giant spaceship. Baddies appear in the form of white plastic-clad soldiers, their faces hidden by helmets, led by a black cloaked pantomime villain compete with black skull-like mask. No wonder Frank walked out after 10 minutes after seeing this rubbish.

But that’s not what we children saw. As a six and a half year old I saw the fear and trepidation of the gold robot. I saw the determination of the small domed headed clever robot. I saw that they were the characters we were engaging with and that they were carrying the story and that the humans and stormtroopers fighting in the background were incidental their story, the goodies, our friends. After 10 minutes we knew that C3PO had reluctantly agreed to take part in an important mission he didn’t understand. We knew that R2D2 carried secrets that must be kept from the baddies. Children have the ability to see a story, to see the elements of characterisation, emotion and motivation in what to the adults were inanimate objects. In short, children’s imaginations are less literal, more hungry for meaning, more powerful. Adults want it all on plate, often too bored and in need of instant gratification and explanation to actually fire up their long unused imagination.

So many modern stories, designed for children, fail to engage in the way a fairy tale can because they lack the depth of meaning that the child can find for themselves and use the story, as it was intended, as a tool to find answers to their own problems.

Boring, literal, obvious stories are at risk of quenching the fire of a child’s imagination. If they haven’t found the tools to engage with objects and people to begin creating their own stories early enough, they may switch off their creativity and become uninterested vessels for easy stories, flashes, bangs and the oh-so-quick quick editing of fast-food dull television, just like so many tedious adults.

This is why stories for children should not be too safe, too sanitised or too obvious. We, as parents and teachers must try not to explain the meaning of such tales but encourage the child to search for and find their own meaning, which may change with subsequent readings and at different points in their lives. This is the creative process of the transition from reader to writer, from consumer to creator.

Our job is to help facilitate these new creators. By reading a good story, a child’s mind becomes co-creator with the original author. This is the first stage to a fulfilling, meaningful, self-directed life of significance.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com


The invisible barrier to creativity and the 90 degree twist


What does my bath, the motor car, R2D2 and a dinosaur on Doctor Who have in common? Read on to find out…

If you’ve seen me speak live you’ll have seen a certain audience participation part where I humiliate a member of the audience on stage to prove that they are limiting their creativity. It’s a simple trick that I won’t reveal here, you’ll have to see me on stage to find out what it is. I’ve been using it since 1993 when it was invented by a friend of mine in a play about what stops us from achieving the success we’re capable of.

Don’t worry, the person helping me on stage isn’t really humiliated. They even get a free book. It’s the audience who realise what the experiment means and that they DO have invisible barriers that stop them from achieving. When they’re pointed out in someone else,  it dawns on them that they’re actually free to do so much more.

We face invisible barriers all the time, every day. They’re usually hidden in the ‘that’s the way we do it because that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ Sometimes we try to innovate  but the end result is only half hearted because the invisible barrier is still there.

I was almost caught out with a mundane, everyday example this month. We’re re-designing our bathroom. It’s a rectangular room with the bath on one longer side and the shower, basin and toilet on the other longer side. We were dictated in our choices of new bathroom furniture by not considering that they could all be moved from their original positions. As soon as we realised we could rotate the bath 90 degrees and have it along the shorter wall, the room ceased to be a ‘corridor’ and became a usable space.

So the barrier there was an unthinking thought that the bath couldn’t be moved. Maybe I didn’t think of moving it because I knew that I don’t personally have the skills to move the plumbing. That was the restriction that held back the best idea.

Innovation is often described as ‘doing something better or in a better way’. But more often than not, true innovation isn’t just doing something ‘a little bit better’ it’s also about doing it different by turning it 90 degrees. By that I mean that the ‘change’ that is made is not always an obvious and progressive one that you’ll get to if you spend enough time thinking about it. If you do that method, the train track of thought will always get to the same destination. What we need to do is think at 90 degrees; to change HOW we think about the problem, to circumnavigate the invisible barrier that keeps us on the train track or in our comfort zone of what’s obviously possible.

Henry Ford was reported as saying that if he’d asked the public what innovation they would have wanted in their transportation in 1884 they would probably have replied, “please get us faster horses”. What they got the following year was a different solution, one at 90 degrees to the problem: the motor car.

Sticking with the motor car as an example, did you know that the first cars didn’t have steering wheels? It seems like an obvious solution to ‘how do you change direction on a wheeled vehicle’ that we scarcely think that it too was an innovation that had to be thought of. The first cars had reigns, the same as the horse drawn carriages that preceded them. You pulled the left reign or lever and it rotated the front wheels to the left. Pull the right lever and you go to the right. The 90 degree innovation was to join the two levers up and make them into a circle. Add a rack and pinion so that the rotary motion of the steering wheel is turned into linear motion of the lever which then pushes or pulls the wheels left or right.

In the early 1970s, the BBC special effects department on Doctor Who pioneered a new technique that would revolutionise the film and tv special effects industry. They called it Colour Separation Overlay, or CSO for short. It was a fairly straight forward technique of replacing one colour in the television signal with the signal from another camera. So one camera would film an actor standing in front of a yellow background and another camera would film another scene. When the signals were added, everything yellow in the signal was replaced by the image from the second camera. It looked like the actor was somewhere else entirely. Brilliant. (These days the technique is often referred to as chromakey or blue-screen, since the colour chosen is often blue.)

Those early effects, although crude by todays standards, were amazing. It was a brilliant innovation, but there was still an invisible barrier in place that took the experts a while to spot. In those 1970s episodes you’ll see the character of Doctor Who in a cave. They’d filmed Jon Pertwee in front of a CSO screen and then film a cave and put them together. The Doctor is now in a cave! A year earlier they’d simply have taken Pertwee to the cave and filmed him there. They weren’t really taking advantage of the technique.

Then, when a script required dinosaurs to march through London, they knew they could really put it to the test. They made a model of the dinosaur and filmed it against the CSO screen using stop motion animation and then keyed the footage onto the footage of the streets. It was only after they’d gone to all the effort and expense of doing it that someone pointed out that the dinosaur model didn’t have to be life-size. It could as easily been six inches tall. They effect might even have been better if it had been. They had missed the 90 degree twist.

When George Lucas began filming the first Star Wars film in 1976 he had to make innovations every day to make that film that delivered so many new effects and methods. A curious one is the story of R2D2. As you remember, he’s a small dustbin-sized robot with three legs and a domed head. The fact that he’s small and a robot made the Lucas’ effects people immediately jump to the obvious conclusion that the prop should be remote radio controlled. They worked with test models, overcame the problem of radio interference, gave R2D2 the third leg for balance. It was working.

Then they went to film the first scene in the deserts of Tunisia. Sand. As you can imagine, a heavy prop on tiny wheels didn’t really work on sand. They would either have to lay rails (as the BBC had done with the Daleks in quarries on Doctor Who two years earlier) or rethink the sand. The 90 degree innovation was to lose the third leg and place a small actor inside the prop so it could ‘waddle’ across the sand. It worked, and the rest is history, making a star of former circus act, Kenny Baker.

Even the best of us can miss the obvious. But at least George Lucas didn’t build life-size starships…

What’s the 90 degree twist in your life and business that will smash through the invisible barrier of sameness and obviousness to create that innovation that takes you to a new level?

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com


A trip to Sava Centre, 1978


We’re going on an adventure. We going to Washington DC where the DC stands for Durham County. It’s a small industrial area just outside Sunderland. Daddy tells me they’ve built a hypermarket there, the first in the North East and we’re going there. We are going to Sava Centre! Sava Centre is a partnership between J. Sainsbury who specialises in food and British Home Stores who sell clothes and hi-fi stuff. This was going to be a shop that had everything under one roof. It’s going to be massive!

Prior to this my only experience of a supermarket is the Co-op in the village. It’s not a supermarket my todays standards, they only have one till and one little old lady to hammer the keys on it. They only stock the little things; little tins of beans, little tins of beans and sausage, small pieces of lamb and tiny bits of ham. You put all your shopping in a little wire basket. I always wondered about those baskets that were never really designed for human use. They looked like they were designed for a creature that had arms that spring horizontally out from its waist, like a child’s drawing.

We park our dark green Austin Princess 1800HL in an enormous car park and walk over to the entrance of ‘The Galleries’, the facility that housed Sava Centre and other outlets. The place is heaving with people so it’s hard to see what’s going on being so close to the ground unlike the tall adults. Looking up I see a massive blue and red logo, a giant ‘S’ for Sava Centre that looks a bit like the Superman logo. I was the only one at school who could draw the Superman logo properly. It’s an ‘S” in a shield but you need to draw the negative space around it to actually draw it. I taught the class how to do it. We approached giant glass doors which slide open with a swoosh just like on Star Trek and we’re in.

The first thing I notice is the lilting music, constantly playing and echoing round the cavernous cathedral-like structure. It’s a short song, played over and over again with a woman singing, “Sava Centre – always the best for you”. Then it stops for a while and there’s a plinky plonky instrumental version of Dr Hook’s ‘When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman’. I know it’s that band as I saw them on Multi-Coloured Swap Shop a few weeks ago. (I was having my breakfast one Saturday when I heard Noel Edmunds say “and next well be having Dr Hook in the studio to take your calls”. I thought he’d said “Doctor Who” and raced into the lounge and memorised the telephone number 01 811 8055 only to find it was a bunch of hairy country rockers and disappointingly not Tom Baker.)

I look up to the ceiling which is miles away. To the left and right are thousands and thousands of checkout tills stretching into infinity with their big thick black rubber conveyor belts and flashing lights on poles. The goods are all neatly packed on shelves, stacked right up into the sky. I ponder that I’d need a pair of binoculars to read the labels of what’s on the top shelf and wonder how you get up there to get at them. There are thousands of isles with everything you could think of.

Wondering off I find the Star Wars figure isle and get lost in absorbing the packaging. It’s a kind of dizziness much more powerful than being in a sweet shop. The black and silver packs, stacked on the wire displays is hypnotic. There are so many to choose from. Daddy said my brother and I could have one each.

I choose R5-D4, the little red droid with a white conical head, a bit like R2-D2 but who was only in the film for two minutes before he blew his motivator and Luke Skywalker chose R2-D2 instead. R5-D4 looked so exciting. He didn’t have a back story or character that the film prescribed. I could invent all that for him and have new adventures with him that I would be able to invent. There’s a girl next to me, looking a the silver plated figure of Death Star Droid with his insectoid head and large black eyes. That would have been my next choice if I could have had two.

There’s also a small boy crawling around on the floor with a 8” radio controlled R2-D2. I don’t look at the larger figures like those, knowing that we can’t afford them. The small boy is rotating the R2-D2 figure and saying, “exterminate, exterminate” as if it’s a Dalek. The girl looks over to me. Her look says “What an idiot”, referring to the small boy’s grave error in mistaking Star Wars’ R2-D2 for a Dalek from Doctor Who. We both laugh.

From time to time the music would stop, often halfway through the jingle, “Sava Centre – always the…” and there would be a ‘ping-pong’ sound and then a woman’s voice. We stop to listen. Sometimes it said “This is a staff announcement.” and we’re able to relax and get back to our shopping. This time it says, “This is a customer announcement. Make sure you visit the Road Safety demonstration and pick up your RoSPA reflector. Thank you.” The girl shows me hers.

“I’ve got one.” she says, “There over there”. I went over to investigate.

There are demonstrations of products including walking three-foot dolls and free tastings of various nibbles. I get my free reflector. I decide to use it as a transmat pad for my Star Wars figures when I get home.

I rejoin my parents in time to queue up and put our stuff on the conveyor belt where the price labels are read by the lady and prices typed into a real computer. All this shopping, it looks like it’ll last us a whole month! It comes to the outrageously high price of £29 (99p of which is for R5-D4 and 99p for my brother’s Snaggletooth). Then we return to the car and get back home quite late, but just in time for Blakes’ 7…

Can you recall when much of the world around you was new? As children with childish minds we had to interpret this strange world, we had to make connections and guess as to the meaning of many things. Oh to be able to think like that again…

The Thinking Cap Experiment(This is an adapted extract from my forthcoming book, ‘The Thinking Cap Experiment’ due out sometime soon. It’s a novel, you know how it is…)

Book Ayd to speak about Creativity and Inspiration for Innovation at your event. A great way to open your conference!
For more interesting info see:

www.aydinstone.com

Everyone remembers a good teacher


One of my model spaceships. A bit battered now.

When you’re 9 the summer holidays are about two years in length. They are so long that by the end you almost can’t remember the beginning. As it draws to a close there’s that feeling of rejuvenation and excitement as the weather changes from sunny and hot, to sunny and cold, to dark and cold in just a few days. But 1980 was different. I had an overwhelming feeling of dread that I couldn’t shake off.

They say everyone remembers a good teacher. Perhaps you remember the bad ones too.

We’d left behind the most magical year with Mrs Edwards, before the summer. It had been a great year that had started that previous 1st of September with the Daleks back on TV in Doctor Who. The last time that had happened was 1975, half my life ago. The excitement was unparalleled. From Doctor Who Weekly I’d become aware that the programme had started in 1963. I worked out in my head that that meant it was now 17 years old and in three years time it would be 20 years old. Something to look forward to.

Then we had the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back, out in the summer. We’d waited three long years for that. Our heads were filled with the concepts of strange worlds, powerful starships, bounty hunters, the mysterious Force and good verses evil. Mrs Edwards said the entire class could build a space station. We all collected bottles and boxes from home and brought them in. We all worked together, boys and girls, gluing them together to fill the entire classroom floor with our space base.

But most of all, what caught my imagination that year was the concept of stories. Everything I was interested in was a story. Stories of adventure, of self-sacrifice, of traitors and heroes, of greed and of hope.

I thought we should re-enact The Empire Strikes Back in the bike shed. It was a large covered area that would serve perfectly as the cloud city of Bespin. I needed more players so recruited friends, then more joined. A group of younger children wanted to be stormtroopers (headed up by my brother). Another batch were bounty hunters, guards and Ugnaughts. We had the Princess and Han. Sean was Chewie. We had a Luke (I think that honour fell to Alex Chakrabarti) and I played Darth Vader and Boba Fett (which was tricky as they were required in the same scene). We did it and it worked, with twenty or so 8 and 9 years olds, during a damp breaktime, with no planning or explanation necessary. We just acted it out. Then the bell rang and we all went back to our separate classes.

When you have enough data, on any topic, your creativity starts to play with it. If you listen constructively to enough songs, you want to write your own and if you play out enough stories, you want to create you own. In 1979, that’s what Barry and I started to do.

We set it in the near future. Earth was at peace and was exploring the stars. It was about two brothers who had been assigned to an exploratory mission. They had fallen through a time vortex portal just outside our solar system and crashed their ship on a strange hostile world populated by robotic people who lived in a giant dome. They had been captured, but eventually escaped with the help of their clever but annoying small robot and managed to be rescued, but not before the leader of the robot people learned of Earth and planned an invasion to fly through the portal and attack all that we held dear. We acted the story out in the yard at playtime and developed the characters. But there was more to it than that. Everything in the story had original names and designs. We designed the uniforms and insignia. We designed and built spaceships and robots. Perhaps the actual story may not sound that original to you now, we’d thrown in elements from all that we’d known, but for two 8 year olds in 1979 I think it stills sounds pretty good. (This was 20 years before things like Deep Space Nine and the like that later made use of similar plot devices.)

Barry’s family were in the military so he added his knowledge of that into the detail. We’d seen the creepy Sapphire and Steel on television and added in psychological twists and depth that we picked up from that. We drew plans of the battle Armada, the bases on Mars and created the family trees of all the characters. We explored the political system of the robot creatures who lived like worker bees under their cyborg leader whose mind was now pure computer. We worked out how the impending invasion caused Earth governments to have to declare martial law and create a coalition, headed up by a right-wing leader from Britain called Eliot Joseph Livingston who had seized the opportunity. We were aware of the dangers of such emergency politics and built that into the story. There were threats from within as well as from outer space.

Mrs Edwards said we could stay in at lunchtime to work on the story more. She suggested we use larger bits of paper and stick them on the classroom wall to have more space to work out the detail.

But by September 1980 all that was a distant memory. The sun had gone out. Now we were lined up to have a new teacher, the dreaded Mr H. It was like heading for the gallows. Sean and I knew we didn’t like him and we knew he didn’t care for us. Sean said it would be alright though, things always turned out ok. But I couldn’t shake the foreboding. Doctor Who Weekly turned into Doctor Who Monthly so at least I had a good magazine to read and take my mind off it.

Mr H employed the ‘dark sarcasm in the classroom’ that had been highlighted by Pink Floyd’s number one single the previous year. He drove a bottle green Ford Cortina mark III. He didn’t let me and Sean sit together. He put Barry by the sink by the window so he could “dry his hands on his long hair”, or so he said.

We had to do a role play. We had to pretend to take a broken toy back to a shop. Darren was bringing it back and I was the shopkeeper. Darren explained that it had exploded and was a dangerous toy and demanded his money back.

“So what are you going to do?” asked Mr H.

“Give him his money back?” I said.

“No you idiot” said Mr H.

“He should have asked to see the receipt” said Darren.

“That’s right” said Mr H, “useless. Sit down”.

That’s how Mr H worked. He taught by humiliation. I didn’t think about asking for a receipt. Why would I? Darren’s family ran the VG shop. He’d worked there. Of course he’d know what to say. It all seemed terribly unfair.

I got depressed, although I didn’t have that word in my vocabulary then. I started thinking about death and felt as though I was going to die, that I didn’t have much time left. I dreamt that I’d asked my parents they could cancel Christmas, anything, to let me not go back to school. But in my waking life I said nothing.

Then it was Maths. Mr H explained about the budget and how prices go up. I wondered if the price of Star Wars figures would be going up. They did, from 99p to £1.49 putting them outside my purchasing power so I had to rely on the single beacon Christmas and my birthday (which are only 5 days apart) to get new toys.

Then Mr H had us all standing up. He asked us various quick-fire maths questions. If you got it right you sat down. Joanne Killian sat down straight away. I got it wrong and had to stay standing. Sean sats down. I got another one wrong again and had to stand on my chair. Kevin Tall sat down. Alison Ball sat down. I got it wrong and had to stand on my desk. Barry was standing on his chair but he too soon sat down. Then it was just me and John Moody left. Everyone else was sitting down.

“7 and 6” said Mr H.

“13” said John earning him his seat. Mr H starts having fun now. Multiplication, division, subtraction, the questions kept coming at me while the others laughed. I though I was going to die, or that I wanted to die, I didn’t know which. Mr Hall toyed with making me sit on the wardrobe but settled for having me sit at the front of the class, facing the blackboard for the rest of the session with a pointed card hat with a large ‘D’ on it.

My confidence had gone. There was a hole where it had been. From then on I struggled with maths. I had to stay behind at breaktime to watch David Shed do long division on the backboard just for fun, just to rub it in how useless I was at it.

Mr Jackson, the headmaster heard me talking to some kids one lunchtime about the Space Shuttle which was about to launch for the first time. He called me over and asked me to explain it to him. I told him all about it, how the boosters worked, how it would take off like a rocket, the duration of the mission, how it would land like an aeroplane, protected by the heat-resistance tiles and how it opened a new age in space exploration. He thanked me and went back to his office. I felt different, excited. There was no hole. When I got home I drew pictures of the Shuttle and compared the scale to the shuttles Barry and I had invented for our story. We were back on.

Barry and I continued our story for decades afterwards. They turned into comic strips and then into short stories and finally novels, adding more and more to the mythos we’d started back in Mrs Edwards’ class.

Mr H went on to be headmaster two years later after both Mr Jackson and I had moved on.  He would never know that I would go on to get a degree in Physics and to study maths to a far higher level than he ever did. But I don’t do mental arithmetic.

If you liked this theme of childhood and school memories you may like:

I own the only surviving copy of time

My headmaster still owes me £50

Why do we remember what we remember?

Where does our ‘right and wrong’ come from?

The Creative Troublemaker

Don’t Talk to Strangers

The End of a Friendship

The Thinking Cap Experiment(This is an adapted extract from my forthcoming book, ‘The Thinking Cap Experiment’)

Book Ayd to speak about Creativity and Innovation Mind-flow at your event.
For more interesting info see:

www.aydinstone.com

How I was labelled ‘sick’ by some school kids



boba fett star wars comics

My comics from aged 10 (left) to age 13 (right)

(click on any of the drawings to make them bigger)

“But they’re amazing”

“Totally sick”*

I’d shown a group of fifty 14 years olds my comic strip drawings from when I was 12 from Doctor Who and Star Wars (more here). I delivered four sessions that day, to batches of fifty pupils each time and got the same reaction from each.

They seemed to think the drawings were pretty good even before I told them they were done by a 12 year old. I then told them that by the time I was their age I’d given up on wanting to be a comic strip artist. You can see my final drawings, done aged 15, below.

“But why? You’re really good.” they said.

Daleks Cyberman

Drawings of a Dalek and a Cyberman, by me aged 13

I told them it was because I didn’t think I was good enough. I’d compared myself with the professionals and felt I obviously didn’t have the talent so I gave up. I told them how I’d gone down a different route that was less frowned on by parents and teachers but was not my real passion. (For the full story, click here.)

“But all you had to do was keep at it.”

“You just needed to keep practicing” they said.

They had got the message. The previous exercise I’d done with them to write down what they really enjoyed doing, just three things they were passionate about suddenly made more sense.

Dalek Masterplan

My drawing of a Dalek, done aged 15

“But I like horseriding. How can I make a living from horseriding without doing racing?” said one girl. The girls next to her reeled off a list of horse related ways she could live a life of horseriding and make money.

That’s what my session is really about. Getting the students to realise that there already is something they can be inspired about. That their creativity can help them imagine a better, more worthwhile future right now, even when they’re constrained in the restriction of having to keep their heads down and focus on GCSEs.

In fact, a student who is inspired about their worth, about future plans and understands that the life they might like to lead can actually be theirs with application of time and energy (rather than abstract talent they may think they don’t have) does better in school right now, getting better grades as a result.

K9 from Doctor Who

My last drawing, of K9, my me aged 15. I didn't draw again until I was 23.

Unprompted, two students separately gave me a great testimonial (which I’ve actually had before a number of times):

“You’re like Willy Wonka. Not the new one, the original one.”

I’m very happy with that. It’s spot on. Do you remember the song?

“Come with me and you’ll see a world of pure imagination. Living there you’ll be free, if you truly want to be.”


For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk

Do you have contacts in schools who may like to bring in external speakers to inspire the students and get better results from them? If you do, please let me know.

In addition to me and my creative thinking sessions I have some great colleagues who cover a range of topics that inspire, improve and educate students in topics that schools don’t have the resources to tackle internally.

Please do pass this list onto the schools you’re in touch with.

Dave Hyner

Dave Hyner

Dave Hyner is the Rhino man of massive goal setting and personal achievement in schools. He runs teacher and parent workshops too to get the messages of how to achieve more and better get embedded. www.stretchdevelopment.com

Angela Whitlock

Angela Whitlock

Best-selling author Peter Roper delivers sessions on ‘natural’ presentations skills, how to speak in public with confidence in your own style. Best suited for 16-18 year olds. www.positiveground.co.uk

Angela Whitlock is an expert coach in communication skills, improving students, teachers and parents emotional resilience, often working one-to-one with parents and children to help connect them to their future. www.angelawhitlock.com

Miguel Dean unlocks learning potential for disadvantaged youngsters, especially those experiencing homelessness. www.migueldean.co.uk

Chris Matthewman

Chris Matthewman

Chris Matthewman is a comedian and self-proclaimed expert at all things to do with love and relationships which he presents as a highly entertaining and thought provoking ‘stand up comedy for schools’ show. Especially suited for PSHE and 6th forms. www.chrismattewman.com

James Burch inspires 15-19 year olds after overcoming challenges and adversity developed from been knocked down by a hit and run drunk driver to now creating the best out of every situation and help teenagers reach new levels in life.

Nigel Vardy

Nigel Vardy

Nigel Vardy survived temperatures of -60C in 1999, losing his fingers, toes and nose to severe frostbite on Mt. McKinley in Alaska.  Regardless of that, he still climbs internationally and has tackled some if the worlds toughest mountains. He talks about overcoming adversity and project management, guaranteeing to give pupils a huge dose of reality. www.nigelvardy.com

Paul Kerfoot, aka ‘The Bulletman’ is a creative director and award winning designer who has a session where the pupils (usually aged 14-16) create their own comic-book style superhero exploring themes of imagination and confidence. www.paulthebulletman.com

Michael-Don Smith helps pupils create a success mind style using his NLP for Young Mind s programmes. www.mindstyle.co.uk

Barry Jackson gives pupils interview skills to prepare them for the world of work and help them to be memorable in front of an employer.

Penny Mallory

Penny Mallory

Penny Mallory delivers a knockout 2 hour workshop to Year 9-11 students based on her experience as a homeless teenager turned rally driver and TV presenter – a high impact presentation that inspires students to achieve their maximum potential. www.motivatingstudents.co.uk

Lee Jackson talks about motivation and relationships at school. His fantastic and original new book ‘How to be Sick at School’ written for pupils, taps into what makes the children want to listen to the message to achieve more. www.howtobesickatschool.com

* I’d only recently learnt from Lee Jackson that this word is used where previous generations would have used ‘wicked’, ‘bad’, ‘skill’ or ‘cool’.

What I did when I was 7 – it’s what I do now



The Adventures of Boba Fett Star Wars

The Adventures of Boba Fett comic book

It’s obvious to me now. Obvious that in the work you do you should build into it what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at. Today I spend my days creating brands and books for experts, giving talks on creativity and branding as well as writing and performing my songs.

But it wasn’t always that way. Or was it? Actually it was. It just took me a long time to realise it.

If you look on my website you’ll see a few of the books I’ve written for sale. But they weren’t my first books. Not by a long way. My first was called ‘Daleks in Vain’ written in 1978 when I was 7. It was bound like a book and had a cover which my teacher showed me how to laminate. I produced my own monthly magazines and created countless comic strips (about Doctor Who or Star Wars, the most extensive saga being the Adventures of Boba Fett). They too were produced as actual books with quizzes, facts, subscription information and dates and prices. I was doing back then what I do now.

English exercise book

My English exercise book with 12/10

I loved writing stories, whether I was tasked by a teacher to write them or not. Two of my English exercise book stories when I was in class 1M were given “12/10 Excellent!” By the teacher. This means just one of two things: either I was a literary genius, or my English teacher wasn’t very good at maths.

By age 12 I’d devoured The Lord of the Rings and was writing my own fantasy stories. Some took the form of those Fighting Fantasy ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books (“do you want to use the potion, turn to page 44” etc). Again, they were produced as complete illustrated books. My industrious work prompted the teacher to write a letter to my parents. It said, “We need to stamp out this indulgence of his with fantasy”.

How many of us have had a (sometimes a well meaning) slight or damning report on our creativity? How many of us have had our creativity and excitement snuffed out, our passion extinguished? I had no further support with my writing and drawing. It was slowly put to one side, deemed by everyone to be an unimportant diversion and a distraction from proper things like Chemistry, Physics and Maths. (Even though I was best at Technical Drawing and Art).

For good or ill I pursued an education in science and by some miracle got a degree in physics and physical science. But just as the degree came to an end, something happened that would change everything as I unwittingly made a decision that would bring my expertise full circle.

I ran for office for the Students’ Union to run the student magazine. Then, it was an 8 page newsletter that 8 people wrote and just about 8 people read. I turned it into a 48 page magazine that had the highest number of student contributors to a student journal before or since. We had 60 student contributing to it in some way each month. I was an editor, a designer, a writer and a performer (I hosted shows, did stand up comedy and performed my songs at events). But the job was about something else. It was really a question of motivation (and I suppose, leadership). I managed to inspire people who would never have got involved in such things to come to my office. “What are you good at?” I’d ask them. “What do you like doing?” One fellow replied that he liked writing poetry. “Great” I said, “You’re the poetry editor” (He went onto become a good friend, my deputy and later on, took the editorship himself.)

TLE the last edition Oasis Definately Maybe Oxford Brookes Students' Union magazine

TLE issue 305, October 1994

A girl came to the office. She said she was interested in bands and music. I knocked up a badge with the magazine logo on it (TLE – The Last Edition) and told her to take it to the Venue and they’ll let her in to review the bands. Take it to the record shops and they’ll give her singles to review. She came back a week later to report that it had worked. She’d done an interview with one of the bands and got some photos. It looked great, although I’d never heard of the band. She said they were going to be huge so we put them on the front cover. The band was Oasis and we had published an exclusive just before they hit the big time.

With that job, which lasted two years, I’d created an Eden, the perfect job where I was using all my skills. When it ended and I had to get a real job, it was a real jolt to the system that I was put in a corner and told to use such a small part of my skills and experience. I counted the days (which amounted to six years) until I had enough nerve to set up on my own and recreate that Eden again.

So here I am, doing the same things I was doing when I was 7. Sometimes we think our dreams are somehow ‘out there’ and distant from us. I’ve realised that mine we here all the time. It just took me such a long time to realise that my hopes, dreams and passions were with me all along.

Are you victim to the voices of decent that have manipulated you into thinking what you should be doing, not what you could be doing? has your creativity been dulled and dumbed down, your passions diverted? Or are you building into your working day who and what you are, what you’re good at, what you enjoy? I hope so.

Drop me a comment with your experience of self re-discovery.

Read more on www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk

Being creative? Don’t be a buffoon, be yourself


When discussing creativity, quite a lot of people seem to think it’s necessary  to run around saying ‘wahey! I’m mad me!’, like that annoying nerdy irritant that manages to infiltrate your circle of friends.

Creativity is not about being an idiot. Being creative doesn’t require you to dress like a 1980s children’s television presenter with a pair of comedy spectacles, silly hat and a large sponge hammer to bonk people on the head with who are taking things too seriously. You don’t need a gunk tank nor do you need to give and receive foam-custard pies.

Being creative is a bit like being able to harness The Force from Star Wars. To use it properly and productively, you don’t need to be and shouldn’t be too cocky or showy. The goodies (the Jedi) went around in simple, ordinary clothes. Their lightsabres were tucked away in their belts, out of sight, but ready if needed. They used their powers to help people and get the job done and not for cheap parlour tricks just to make them feel good. The baddies, on the other hand, were different.

The Sith went into showing off in a big way. Darth Maul was such an egotist that he tattooed his whole body to make him look ‘really scary’. It was a bit obvious. He was mad and bad, a one trick pantomime pony with no subtlety at all.

The same was true of Darth Vader. Ok, so he was a burns victim, sure. But, I know quite a few serious burns victims and none of them decided to wear a black helmet in the shape of a skull. Vader wore his bad heart on his sleeve.

To be creative you are bound to be eccentric. You have to be. Eccentric means ‘not in the middle of the circle’. Being abnormal means not being the normal straight up and down at a right angle to the ground (eccentric and normal are geometry terms for circles and lines). We must be abnormal and eccentric with our creativity otherwise we won’t be  creative. But we don’t have to be abnormal and eccentric fools. We just need to be ourselves.

For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk

You don’t have to work here – but it helps


There’s often a preconception about creativity that to be creative you have to be some sort of Mr Claypole like court jester. Too many books on this topic seem to run with the premise from the author of ‘w-hey! I’m mad me!’ like that annoying nerdy irritant that manages to infiltrate everyone’s circle of friends.

Creativity is not about being an idiot. Creativity doesn’t require you to dress like a 1980s children’s television clown with a pair of comedy spectacles, silly hat and a large sponge hammer to bonk people on the head who are taking things too seriously. You don’t need a gunk tank or to give and receive foam-custard pies. There’s no need for that inane lunacy (unless you are a 1980s children’s tv presenter).

Being creative is a bit like being able to harness The Force from Star Wars. To use it properly and productively, you don’t and shouldn’t be too cocky and showy. The goodies (the Jedi) went around in simple, ordinary clothes. Their lightsabres were tucked away on their belts, out of sight, but ready if needed. They used their powers to help people and get the job done and not for cheap parlour tricks just to make them feel good. The baddies on the other hand were different. The Sith went into showing off in a big way. Darth Maul was such an egotist that he tattooed his whole body to make him look ‘really scary’. It was a bit obvious. He was mad and bad, a one trick pantomime pony with no subtlety at all. The same was true of Darth Vader. Ok, so he was a burns victim. I know quite a few serious burns victims. None of them decided to wear a black helmet in the shape of a skull. He wore his bad heart on his sleeve.

I have a motto that I’ve taken and twisted from that most annoying of office buffoon cliches. I don’t mean to present this as a clever joke, but to make a serious point:You don’t have to work here – but it helps.

That’s on my office wall. It’s a good a motto as any. The point being that to be creative you actually have to DO something. The book of Genesis doesn’t say ‘and God thought it might be a really good idea to let there be light and separate the land from the sea but decided to start the week with a few days off first’. Every act of creation involves a bit of work, some sort of action. That’s why we like a good creation myth like Genesis or the Big Bang Theory: things happen, things progress. If you know me you’ll know I like nothing better than to sit around making up jokes and ideas. But you’ll also notice that I always have a notebook. I’m always asking the question, ‘what can we do with that?’, ‘is it useful?’.

To be creative you are bound to be eccentric. You have to be. Eccentric means ‘not in the middle of the circle’. Being abnormal means not being the normal straight up and down at a right angle to the ground (eccentric and normal are geometry terms for circles and lines). We must be abnormal and eccentric with out creativity otherwise we wouldn’t be being creative. But we don’t have to be abnormal and eccentric fools. We just need to be ourselves.

For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk