David Bowie Is...
I just returned from a quick trip to New York City to attend the “David Bowie Is” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. It held many important lessons for me as a creative and a leader of creatives.
It reminded me, with compelling certainty, how intellectually brilliant he was, and how driven to make his mark on the world. Bowie absorbed artistic inspiration and influences readily. One might say like a sponge.
However, I think tofu is a better analogy than a sponge. A sponge absorbs liquid but remains unchanged. Tofu absorbs whatever flavor it marinates in. And once it is flavored, it is there to be consumed, like art, music, video, film.
David Bowie is tofu.
Bowie was a voracious reader. He soaked up wide-ranging flavors of images, literature, sounds, cultures, philosophies, and was inspired everywhere he turned. He ideated through writing and sketching. Bowie was a restless and prolific mulitpotentialite who thrived on pivoting to the new, just when people were catching on to his latest creation.
There was always a through line in his work. I’m not talking about the topical through lines of space, or stars, challenging societal norms, or alienation. The through line beneath all of Bowie’s creativity is focus.
He put his electric eye on a concept and took it to his logical conclusion. He channeled all those flavorful influences into carefully developed and excellent creative output.
Focus means get serious about your creative life. Stop dithering around. Take it all in but don’t get distracted. Make it excellent. David Bowie is focused.
I’m nowhere near David Bowie’s genius level, but I do feel a deep creative kinship with him. When I’m in the middle of six books at a time. When I catch glimpses of random but visually striking things and think about what I could do with those images. When I’m scribbling notes in the wee hours of the morning, inspired by a dream, and sketching out grand ideas that suddenly present themselves.
David Bowie is teaching me how to be an effective creative. In order to fully honor his influence and memory, I need to become focused too.