Rattle Your Own Cage

Creative inspiration from Erik Wahl’s Unthink

UnThink cover
A successful creative life is one filled with disruption and provocation, and I’ve found this to be true on every level.

That’s why an article about Erik Wahl and his book Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius seemed especially resonant for me. Ekaterina Walter offered this summary in a recent post in Fast Company:

Wahl says that “purposeful provocation” should be a part of our personal and professional lives, every single day. Here are the four steps he suggests we need to take to inject a healthy disorder to remain progressive:

1. Step outside your bubble.

When we don’t prod or question the way things are, our existence ends up being based on outdated assumptions and erroneous conclusions. Look at the everyday issues from a different perspective, gently invite others to step outside their comfort zone by asking the questions no one wants to ask, challenge status quo in little ways. It will all spark a bigger change in the long run.

2. Live with some discomfort.

We all want comfort and safety. It’s in our nature. But progress comes from doing what is right and best and necessary. The choices to move forward, innovate, and confront the issues we may not be comfortable with confronting are not always easy, but they are necessary for innovation.

3. Ask forgiveness instead of permission.

Often the only time a boss or a company will see the need for change is when the change has been made without permission.

4. Start small.

Sometimes all that is needed is a small adjustment to make a major, much-needed impact. Often our fear of being provocative is based on the notion that if we speak of or make a change in a process it will be like pulling the office fire alarm, says Wahl. That’s almost never the case, especially when you start small.

The big secret about being provocative, recaps Wahl, is that “not only do you become a change artist in a sea of sameness, you amplify the element of adventure in your own journey.”

Wahl and Waller use the language of the business world, but it’s not hard to see how valuable this advice can be to the singing actor. The act of creation is a disruptive one: every choice you make is a challenge to the status quo, one that requires courage and commitment. Whether you’re grappling with the broadest concept or the minutest detail, it’s incumbent on you to use your curiosity, your intelligence and your technique in a provocative way, interrogating the material to find out what’s possible. Stanislavski’s “Magic If” is the most fundamental of provocations: “What if…” is a question that unlocks the door to all sorts of unknown possibilities.

The SAVI Singing Actor embraces the notion of authorship – the principle that a performance of a song or a role is the unique creation of the artist who performs it. This requires the kind of personal courage that Sondheim describes in his song, “Everybody Says Don’t”:

Make just a ripple.
Come on, be brave!
This time a ripple,
Next time a wave!

How could being purposefully provocative help you take your singing acting to a new level?

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