D5: On A Napkin

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity lately. Partly because it’s a central theme in the book I’m co-authoring (more on that very soon, I hope!), but mostly because I’ve committed to writing here every day. What will I write about?! How will I come up with ideas?! Why am I using multiple punctuation at the end of my sentences?!?

Finding 15- to 30 minutes per day to sit down and write is the discipline of this self-assignment. But finding something to say, that takes creativity. But what is creativity, anyway? Where does it come from? What causes those spark moments that send you running for your typewriter or your paintbrush or, if you’re from the 21st century, your lightweight MacBook Air or iPad?

And where do those moments of creative inspiration take place for most of us? When we’re doing something relaxing, like taking a shower or going for a run, or something routine like driving — anything that frees up our minds to make connections and (day) dream big.

As I was doing exactly that the other night, I started thinking about cocktail napkins. Of all the devices of creativity, nothing receives more press than the napkin. It’s become something of lore, a four-by-four-inch deposit for ideas, be they for new companies, products, novels or songs. Then, at 1 a.m., I got lost in the Googlesphere. If you believe everything you read on the Internet, then all of this is true …

Arthur Laffer, professor of business economics at USC, drew a graph on a napkin to illustrate his idea that there is a point at which increased taxes result in decreased revenues. Known as the “Laffer Curve,” this idea became the backbone of President Ronald Reagan’s “trickle-down” economics.

Roger Christian scribbled the lyrics to the song “Honolulu Lulu” on a napkin.

J. K. Rowling wrote much of the first Harry Potter novel on a napkin. By book two, she could afford notebooks.

Neil Young wrote “The Old Laughing Lady” on a napkin at a White Tower burger joint in Detroit.

John Lennon wrote “Hard Day’s Night” on a napkin that is housed in a museum in London, hopefully sitting atop a replica bar.

In 2000, FC Barcelona technical secretary Charly Rexach signed Lionel Messi via a contract on a napkin.

The moral of this post: The next time I’m struggling for an idea, I’m hitting the bar.

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