David Bowie's Thoughts on Creativity

David Bowie sits in a room. "Never play to the gallery," he says first. It's seconds into a one-minute clip of him. His hair is orange-red. His voice is gentle and firm. He seems somewhat shy, a word he often uses to describe himself.

You don't learn if you play to the gallery, he says, or at least not for a while. And pleasing people isn't the real reason why you write, design, sculpt, work in any kind of art.

"Always remember that the reason that you initially started working was that there was something inside yourself that you felt that if you could manifest it in some way, you would understand more about yourself, how you coexist with the rest of society."

Mr. Bowie never felt he was all that articulate. His music, he told Livewire years ago, spoke for him. "It's always been my way of expressing what for me is inexpressible by any other means," was how he put it.

Towards the end of the one-minute clip, he remembers something. "The other thing I would say is if you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area." His voice drops down a register. This is not a point he will yield on.

He was interested in a lot of things. Repeating himself wasn't one of them. He'd take a "magnificent disaster" over mediocre any day of the week. Our life is finite, he often said. Best to experiment with it.

The clip is nearly over. "Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in, go a little bit out of your depth," he says.

And in the last few seconds of the clip, his face opens a little, his voice lifts, and with a quiet kind of delight, David Bowie says:

"And when you don’t feel that your feet are touching the bottom, you’re just about at the right place to do something exciting."

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Creativity, FailureCaitie Whelan