So last weekend my family and I were in Chicago. The main reason was to watch the New Zealand All Blacks play the American Eagles in Rugby, and also hang out with with friends. However, there was something waiting for us there…
Chicago is a hell of a town, but all the stars seemed to be in alignment for this trip, because the Museum of Contemporary Art was hosting the only American stop of the touring exhibit, David Bowie Is…
Now I have always loved Bowie and his music- pretty much ever since my friend Shelley introduced me to both when I was a teenager. Then it was Labyrinth (like most teenage girls that was an eye-opening movie) and the Prestige. So I knew he was a talented man.
Even knowing all that, this exhibit opened my eyes. David Bowie is a renaissance man in the truest sense of the word. He studied mime, he writes, sings, acts, paints and designs.
The exhibit was like a little peek into his brain, and it was amazing. Even our ten year old daughter, whose entire knowledge of Bowie is confined to the song Moonage Daydream in Guardians of the Galaxy, was entranced.
Seriously if you can get to Chicago to see this exhibit, then go (it closes January 4th). Going in knowing nothing might be even more exciting…especially for creative people. Personally this year has been all over the place, but taking a brief walk through someone else and their uber-creative life put things in perspective for me.
So, what can we learn from Bowie as writers..and people?
- Be Curious. Bowie as a young man had an idea of what he wanted to be, and he set about to get there. He read books that he thought were cool while traveling on the Underground in London. Eventually, he found ideas in these books he read just to look good, and that broadened his mind. Read widely. Look around you, and be always looking for new experiences to enrich your writing.
- Try New Things. Bowie has this program written for him by Apple called the verbalizer. In the mid-1990s this program took sentences and chopped them up and put them in new patterns. He’d then use these new and sometimes strange sentences to get him started on writing lyrics. It may sound weird and wacky, but it also seems like it was the kickstarter for new ways of thinking for him. Experiment outside your genre, it may feel weird but try out some new writing shoes now and then. Don’t be afraid to mix it up.
- Collaborate and Learn. David Bowie discovered other artists, sometimes quite different to himself and worked with them. He found musicians and producers all over the world, and made funk, pop, and avant garde music. Learn from others. Even if others tell you how amazing you are, you can always lose more. Writing can be solitary, find ways to communicate and work with others. It’ll be fun and you might learn somethingâ€”or at least have a good time!
- Keep Your Head On. Although Bowie achieved amazing, world-wide success with Let’s Dance in the 1980s, he didn’t stop there. Popularity was something he wanted to try out, but then he went back to doing what he loved, creating. Love what you write, or what’s the point?
- Be Fearless. Or at least give the impression of fearless. Keep moving forward, even if there are highs and lows, who knows what is ahead.
To me Bowie is the ultimate hybrid; always trying new things, refusing to be labelled as one thing or another, and always moving. Perhaps that is what makes him so alien and intruduing. However, after seeing the exhibit, I know one thing Bowie Is…inspirational.
â€œAll art is unstable. There is no authoritative voice. There are only multiple readings.â€