Throughout his life, David Bowie has created a whole universe of vivid artistic images and concepts. His music inspires other musicians, and his character Ziggy Stardust has become a cultural reference point for several generations. How did the creator manage to come up with such inimitable images, time and time again? In his creative process, Bowie used an unusual brainstorming technique known as the “cut-up” method.
The cut-up method means cutting up or tearing apart a written or printed text into pieces and then mixing the pieces to compose something new out of them.
David Bowie used the cut-up method when he had a crisis of new ideas. David described the process itself as an attempt to ignite what imagination can conceal. Also, this technique has helped Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, Thom Yorke, and Iggy Pop.
We decided to combine the cut-up method with the technique widely known in psychology as “private speech.”
Private speech is a conversation with oneself, which is also described as a “speech spoken to oneself for communication, self-guidance, and self-regulation of behavior.” It has been scientifically proven that there is a direct connection between its use and the successful passing of exams by young people.
So, our hybrid of David Bowie’s method and the psychological technique includes three simple steps and is guaranteed to help you generate new ideas:
1. Start recording and just talk
A one-on-one conversation with oneself out loud, with one’s conscious and unconscious, has tremendous power. As soon as you begin to express what is happening in your head with your voice, your thoughts will flow like a river, new ideas will be born, and new neural connections will be formed. We always express much more ideas verbally than we can physically put on paper. Recording the brainstorming process itself and then “unscrambling” what was said is also useful. Let your thoughts take a verbal form.
2. Cut up your speech into pieces
Read your notes, “decode” them, and start shredding the paper. Bowie cut his monologues into phrases, and you can use large chunks of text in turn. It doesn't matter what you choose, just grab a pair of scissors and go. The main thing is to save your transcripts – they can give you new ideas.
3. Mix and rearrange the fragments and look for a connection
This is where the fun begins. Some put all the cut pieces in a bowl and take them out one by one. Others lay out all the pieces on the table to see the whole picture. You can choose any method, the main thing is to rearrange fragments of text more often and play with the meanings. Get the most out of your out-loud monologue.
Bowie's cut-up method is a great driver for creative processes. With its help, you can find new meanings in your ideas and reflections. The cut-up method can be used not only by individuals but also by organizations during team brainstorming meetings, which will help them achieve a lot.
In a 1997 BBC interview, Bowie talked about his own experiences with the cut-up method.