Writers are in the import/export business

In a recent post on his wonderful blog, Austin Kleon quoted Brian Eno on why he decided to stop touring. As part of his explanation for staying put, Eno describes his creative process as “Import and Export,” which I think is the clearest way of explaining what writers, musicians, and artists of all types do.

I find that travel is a wonderful way of sparking creative fires, but sticking to a routine—keeping those embers glowing—enables short- and long-term production. Personally, I’d rather stay home and change my perspective, explore a new street, or challenge myself in my observations—for instance, doing a photographic study of yellow while completing my daily tasks, or looking for new stop signs to add to my #stopsignseries.

Here’s the quote in full, and its original source.

I noticed that touring — which is wonderful in some ways — is absolutely confining in other ways.  It’s so difficult… you just can’t think about anything else. You try your hardest: You take books with you and word processors, and you’re definitely going to do something with the time. And you never do. It’s so easy for it to become your exclusive life, this one and a half hours every evening that you play. And I just thought, “I’m losing touch with what I really like doing.” What I really like doing is what I call Import and Export. I like taking ideas from one place and putting them into another place and seeing what happens when you do that. I think you could probably sum up nearly everything I’ve done under that umbrella. Understanding something that’s happening in painting, say, and then seeing how that applies to music. Or understanding something that’s happening in experimental music and seeing what that could be like if you used it as a base for popular music. It’s a research job, a lot of it. You spend a lot of time sitting around, fiddling around with things, quite undramatically, and finally something clicks into place and you think, ”Oh, thats really worth doing.” The time spent researching is a big part of it. I never imagined a pop star life that would’ve permitted that.

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