Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson of the hip hop band The Roots epitomises the exploration of creativity in all facets of one’s life. While his creative expression has been rooted primarily in music as a deejay, drummer and founder of The Roots, he continuously explores the edges of creativity. In his book, Creative Quest – which followed Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According To Questlove, his memoir of sorts, and Something To Food
At the same time, he is not afraid to question himself, as evidenced in the opening lines of Creative Quest, “Decades into my career, with many albums and songs under my belt, I still don’t know if I am truly creative. Most days I spend more time absorbing the creative work around me than actually creating myself.” He then proceeds to answer this question for himself, which is a question that forever plagues many a creative person.
All I can do is drop hints, drop bread crumbs, and drop science.
All The Places You’ll Go
Creative Quest is the type of book you read with a pencil in hand, scribbling thoughts, questions, and incomplete answers. As he taps into the many creative people that he has access to, drawing insights from their processes, he also shares stories from his own experiences that provide a blueprint of sorts from which to develop your own process. He explores the definitions of creativity, mentors and apprentices, the impact of social media on creativity, copying and covering, creating the environment for your creative self, the power of boredom, multitasking, curation, success, failure, product versus art and a myriad of other subjects.
To emphasise that this is not a book to be read through once and discarded, at the end of each chapter of Creative Quest is a blank page for the reader to explore a dimension of their creativity by going through an exercise. Questlove states, in the Introduction, “I’ll tell you this right at the beginning: you – and only you – have the power to make these creative exercises work. All I can do is drop hints, drop bread crumbs, and drop science. Pick up what you want. The book is in your hands. How it gets used is also in your hands.”
When you’re done here, don’t just close the cover and let the work return to the way it was before. Make things.
My Creative Quest Epiphany
As a writer, he has forced me to reflect on what I have created over the years and how to draw from that as I move forward. When you are commissioned to write something, it belongs to the client or publication. And I have found that once written, I have often forgotten about the specific piece. In the book, one of the things that stood out for me in Creative Quest was how to build on those for myself.
The exercise at the end of the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle chapter is described as follows: Unblock Party – When you’re having trouble thinking of new ideas, go to one of your old ideas and rework. Out of this, I have started looking over past writing and looking at which ideas and topics warrant a revisiting now, years after they were written.
This a book that achieves the intention behind it and is definitely worth adding to your collection. As Questlove says, in the Afterword, “My final caution, which also serves as an encouragement, is that the ideas, stories, memories, and suggestions in this book are only tools, and that you are the people who will have to figure out how to use them. They are your hammers now, your compasses, your levels, and your wrenches. When you’re done here, don’t just close the cover and let the work return to the way it was before. Make things. Make your way to the things that others have made. Make theories of your own. All the advice in the world won’t help if you don’t get out there and start the perfectly imperfect process of creating.”