A more mundane lesson is that some creative people thrive on chaos. Every pop-psychology nostrum about creativity – the importance of balance, of cultivating undistracted focus, of getting plenty of exercise – is undermined by the many chaotic creatives whose lives looked more like Marx’s. It’s clear that disarray and anxiety were what energised his work; his very lack of balance and calm are what enabled his originality and volume of output. None of which means balance and calm aren’t nicer ways to live, of course. It’s just a reminder that, contrary to the message of virtually every currently popular book on how to “think like Leonardo”, “train your brain” for creativity, “do great work”, etcetera, the most creative work isn’t a matter of methodically implementing certain techniques (and thus, the implication goes, within the reach of us all). Nor is it necessarily compatible with a peaceable life. You want creativity tips from Marx? Be constantly anxious, angry, underslept and broke. Why not try implementing this approach at your Silicon Valley startup, or your edgy Soho marketing agency? The effects could be revolutionary!
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