Radiohead’s Formula For Unleashing Your Creative Genius

Post by Oleg Mokhov.

unleash creative genius
Photo by alterna2

Want to unleash your creative genius? Take a lesson from a band that knows a thing or two about creating remarkable work: Radiohead.

Love ’em or hate ’em, Radiohead are a major and remarkable band – especially their ’97 magnum opus OK Computer, a creative, critical, and commercial success that sounded like no other rock music at the time.

You can take away a critical lesson from how Radiohead made OK Computer. One that’ll help you unleash your creative genius and create something truly remarkable.

And that lesson is (Phil Selway drumroll)…

Isolate Yourself

When you create, isolate yourself.

You can only create something remarkable when you completely believe in what you’re creating and let 100% of yourself and your ideas come out. And the easiest way to do that is to isolate yourself during creation.

Radiohead, together with producer Nigel Godrich, locked themselves in a country house to record their album OK Computer. No outside influences, people, or experiences. Just pure isolation during creation.

You can edit, polish, and market your work afterwards. But in order to have something remarkable to begin with, you need to keep your creation pure.

You don’t want to consider others when creating. You become self-conscious, thinking about the market or what an audience might want. Or you start second-guessing yourself. Basically, you turn off that subconscious state of creativity; the creative flow that brings out your best ideas and creations.

Isolating yourself stops outside influences that can taint and water down your work, making it less awesome and valuable to yourself and others.

So what’s the best way to isolate yourself? Whatever works best for you in order to stop outside influences. It could be as simple as shutting off the internet when you write, getting out into nature or some special spot, or literally locking yourself from the outside world for a brief moment (like recording a landmark album).

Glen found out during his honeymoon cruise that when he works in an environment free of distractions and outside influence, his best ideas flow freely and creative output quadruples.

Untainted Creation

When your creation is untainted by outside influences, it’s at its most pure. And when you create something completely unique and wholly you, you get something remarkable.

The reason Radiohead’s OK Computer is so remarkable—much more so than their first two albums, which were similar to other rock music—is because it sounded like no other album at the time. The band was untainted by outside influences during the creation, so they didn’t end up sounding like their contemporaries.

While you could trace back the band’s musical influences, the collection of tunes themselves are unique and wholly Radiohead. In other words, a remarkable creation.

It’s okay to be influenced by what you consume and experience. In fact, you can’t begin creating without having some starting point. But during the creation itself, there should be no outside influences – you want to let what’s inside of you come out unobtrusively.

You pull from your creative influences, but you keep the moment of creation itself untainted.

Remarkable Is Desirable

Okay, so isolating yourself during creation yields the most remarkable work. So what? What if you’re okay with good enough, or being just like the rest? Maybe your primary objective is makin’ da monayz. Why should you care about creating remarkable work?

Because remarkable is a lucrative asset.

Truly remarkable is rare. Even if your remarkable stuff doesn’t fit into what should work or sell, people desiring something of this nature will consume it because it’s the only one of its kind. Like Seth Godin says, instead of trying to fruitlessly compete in an existing category, you create your own category and dominate it.

Radiohead created and dominated their own category with OK Computer, and they were handsomely rewarded critically and commercially.

Unleash Your Creative Genius

Unleash your creative genius by isolating yourself when creating.

Learn from Radiohead and how they created their remarkable album OK Computer. By keeping your creative flow pure and untainted by outside influences, you’ll be able to create something truly remarkable.

Oleg Mokhov is the world’s most mobile electronic musician and co-founder of the premium royalty free music store Soundtrackster.

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{ 22 comments… add one }
  • augapfel January 4, 2010, 8:04 pm

    Actually I hear this about a lot of artists, whether they be authors, musicians, artists, or something else. Often their defining work comes from a creative period where they were isolated and locked away from distractions for weeks or months at a time.

    Unfortunately unless you're a professional artist I think it's hard to lock yourself away for more than a long weekend at a time as life generally gets in the way. But I guess ultimately those are sacrifices that some people make and others don't and in some cases that may define the successful from the less successful.

    Reply
    • Glen Stansberry January 4, 2010, 9:49 pm

      I think it's important that everyone spend at least *some* period of time a day in a “heads down” state. No distractions, nothing. At least that's what I'm trying to do. The results have been awesome.

      Reply
      • augapfel January 4, 2010, 9:57 pm

        I agree wholeheartedly with that. I've noticed benefits by just spending five minutes alone in a nice dark room without a TV, computer, or cell phone available.

        I wonder what I could accomplish and how I would feel if I had a few days of alone time since those five minutes seem so refreshing

        Reply
    • Oleg Mokhov January 5, 2010, 8:30 am

      Augapfel, I feel this method is useful on any scale. Like you mentioned in your reply to Glen, even if you lock yourself away for 5 minutes a day, that's better than none and you get better results.

      And it's feasible to go up to an hour or two a day. Since you'd be writing/coding/painting/music-making anyway, why not maximize that time by isolating yourself during creation.

      Thanks for the great comment,
      Oleg

      Reply
  • augapfel January 5, 2010, 2:04 am

    Actually I hear this about a lot of artists, whether they be authors, musicians, artists, or something else. Often their defining work comes from a creative period where they were isolated and locked away from distractions for weeks or months at a time.

    Unfortunately unless you're a professional artist I think it's hard to lock yourself away for more than a long weekend at a time as life generally gets in the way. But I guess ultimately those are sacrifices that some people make and others don't and in some cases that may define the successful from the less successful.

    Reply
  • Glen Stansberry January 5, 2010, 3:49 am

    I think it's important that everyone spend at least *some* period of time a day in a “heads down” state. No distractions, nothing. At least that's what I'm trying to do. The results have been awesome.

    Reply
  • augapfel January 5, 2010, 3:57 am

    I agree wholeheartedly with that. I've noticed benefits by just spending five minutes alone in a nice dark room without a TV, computer, or cell phone available.

    I wonder what I could accomplish and how I would feel if I had a few days of alone time since those five minutes seem so refreshing

    Reply
  • Oleg Mokhov January 5, 2010, 2:30 pm

    Augapfel, I feel this method is useful on any scale. Like you mentioned in your reply to Glen, even if you lock yourself away for 5 minutes a day, that's better than none and you get better results.

    And it's feasible to go up to an hour or two a day. Since you'd be writing/coding/painting/music-making anyway, why not maximize that time by isolating yourself during creation.

    Thanks for the great comment,
    Oleg

    Reply
  • WritersKitchen January 7, 2010, 4:11 pm

    Believe it or not, I've been waiting for someone to write a Radiohead-inspired post. But I thought Copyblogger would break it first. Congratulations, Oleg!

    In addition to sharing fun Radiohead trivia–didn't know they holed up in a country house to record Okay,Computer—you’ve come up with some very thoughtful suggestions for creative growth.

    And here's one more thing artists and entrepreneurs can learn from Radiohead: Give your work away for free—as with In Rainbows–and reap huge rewards.

    Reply
    • Oleg Mokhov January 7, 2010, 7:49 pm

      Regarding giving away for free, I'd add: give them the option to buy, and also offer higher-priced premium products – like the Disk Boxes Radiohead did for In Rainbows. You don't need to sell tons to make a profit, and hardcore fans will desire it.

      Thanks for your comment WritersKitchen. Glad I could beat Copyblogger to the punch for you :)

      Reply
  • Tomas Stonkus January 8, 2010, 5:18 pm

    Hey Oleg:

    I have mixed feelings about this. I would have to say this is only part of the story of unleashing your creative genius.

    OK. Isolating yourself works only you have enough experiences to build upon and when you are set dead on completing something. I am a strong believer that best creations come from unique experiences in life.

    I would find it hard to believe that Radiohead just had this divine intervention and decided to look themselves up and create.

    However, I completely agree that once you are ready to create something remarkable, you should eliminate all of the distractions possible of just focus on crystallizing your experiences into a remarkable creation.

    Best,
    Tomas

    Reply
    • Oleg Mokhov January 8, 2010, 5:28 pm

      I mention that briefly in the article, Tom. You get inspired by other creations, your experiences, and just life. And you bring those influences in when you create.

      But the actual creation process ITSELF is when you isolate yourself.

      Maybe I could've elaborated that point more in the article?

      Reply
  • Michael January 13, 2010, 6:14 pm

    Remarkable

    Reply
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