I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Eminen, the rapper. But do you know what makes him great at what he does? His uncanny ability to play with words and create lyrics that don’t seem to rhyme.
Anderson Cooper, from 60 Minutes, interviewed Eminem late last year. In the interview, among other things, Eminem tells Anderson Cooper about his song writing method. I thought this was interesting because Eminem can helps us learn how to be more creative and thought I’d post some of my thoughts here.
I can’t post the video here because embedding is disabled but you can watch the video on YouTube and the part where he explains his creative process starts around the 5 minute mark.
If choose not to watch the interview, here are some nuggets:
Anderson Cooper asks Emimen to explain what he means by ‘bending the words’, to which Eminem responds:
Just the enunciation of it. People say that the word orange doesn’t rhyme with anything and that kind of pisses me of because I can think of a lot of things that rhyme with orange.
Anderson Cooper continues, what rhymes with orange?
If you’re taking the word at face value, and you say orange. Nothing is going to rhyme with it exactly. If you enunciate it and make it more than one syllable, you can say like: I put my orange-forange-storinge-in storage-in a pourage.
You just have to figure out the science to breaking down words.
Eminem says that he thinks about word rhymes throughout the day and drives himself insane with it.
Anderson Cooper mentions and that he heard that Eminem used to read the dictionary. Eminem says he did for a very particular reason:
I just felt like I wanted to be able to have these words at my disposal in my vocabulary at all times whenever I need to pull them out. Somewhere they’ll be stored like locked away.
He then pulls out a box where he stores scraps of paper with words and phrases he’s written.
There are a few things to point out here:
1. Eminem has low associative barriers. Associating is a key habit of highly creative and innovative people. By ‘Bend the words by changing the enunciation’, Eminem is trying to ‘force a connection’ between words that seem to have no association whatsoever. He says he constantly plays with words in his head and drives himself crazy doing it. This isn’t surprising.
2. He’s constantly coming up with ideas and writes everything down. This shouldn’t be a surprise as musicians have to constantly come up with ideas. But, just the fact that he has a whole box where he keeps his notes (this part made me grin as I have a similar box with scattered notes) tells you his mind is working overtime. Good old fashioned pen and paper never goes out of style.
3. Practices creativity that works. In saying that he read the dictionary because he wanted to be able to have words at his disposal, Eminem essentially started systematizing his creativity a long time ago. Because our brains process a lot of information, it helps us remember things by placing in shelves in our minds. In Eminem’s case, a lot of words from the dictionary.
As explained in his book, Strategic Intuition, William Duggan says creativity works by taking elements on the shelves on your brain and they come together in new combinations. To be more creative and make new connections, you need to put more things on the shelves of your brain and free your mind to let them connect.
Being creative is hard work and takes practice
Breaking down associative barriers by forcing connections between things that have no obvious connection, relentlessly coming up with lots of ideas and having a system in place to help you fine tune your ideas is how you become creative.
As you can see, Eminem does this. It takes a lot of practice but if you like what you do, it’s fun work!