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CUWCS11: Charlie Trotter And Demystifying Creativity

Brent DixonComment

Whether you've blown milk out of your nose while reading his photo-based comic Lolzies, spent a night with a bowl of popcorn watching his videos because they beat most anything on prime time television, enjoyed multiple trips to Wikipedia while rolling around in the esoterica of Gutenberg's Pygmies, jammed to the sounds of his voice over the vintage banjo ukelele he restored, or… well you get the idea… if you've encountered Charlie Trotter you've encountered the sort of creative energy it's impossible to forget.

Lucky for us, Charlie talked about creativity at last year's Symposium. He unwound the roots of his creative process, talked about the difference between imagination and creativity, and took us head-on into the fears people face when bringing something new into the world. 

If you make things – whether it's writing or gardening or business strategy or artisan breads or spreadsheets – I hope Charlie's words do you as right as they've done me.

In his words:

"A lot of people treat creativity like it’s the Wizard of Oz. It’s so much fun to think about being a wizard. Who doesn’t want to be THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ, popping around the Emerald City, projecting your disembodied head any old place just to freak people out? That’s fun to think about. But it’s fun because it’s easy, because we know we will never be expected to act on that thought. 

The truth is, behind that twitching curtain in the wings is a homely little man sweating through his dinner jacket and hustling like the rent’s late. The wizard doesn’t exist unless that guy shows up every day and gets dirty. And the reason you had to wait to see the Wizard? Who do think shlepped you across town on the Horse of a Different Color? Same guy. He’s also the same guy who answered the door, and he answered it late because he was busy changing out one of the painted lightbulbs that make the joint look green. And that’s when you begin to see the reason everyone in Emerald City is always out of breath is because they’ve been busy making Oz.

Nobody wants to be that guy. And precious few are. But it’s not because they can’t. It’s because they won’t."


Brent Dixon lives in Austin, Texas. He is a designer, educator, musician and doodler. Brent works with the Filene Research Institute to apply their research in the real world, runs the design studio The Habdash, and founded the young professionals' community the Cooperative Trust.