Questlove & Creativity

Questlove is a genius. I’ve been a fan for decades – and reading his latest book, Creative Quest, has made me even more enthusiastic. He is an amazing artist.

Probably best known as the drummer and leader of the Roots, the band on the NBC’s Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Questlove is a musician, arranger, DJ, composer, author, producer (music, theater and more), writer, critic, foodie, teacher and all-round creative force. I first heard him DJ in the early 2000s in clubs and was hooked – and I’ve been regularly looking for events where he performs ever since. The breadth of music that he pulled together in his shows was always impressive and exciting. Creative Quest explains how and why – and quite a bit about his thinking, work habits, and creative processes.

Written as much as a discussion as a traditional book (and I imagine that it would be a great on audio), Creative Quest is driven by Questlove’s interest in creativity. He wonders if he is truly creative – and the narrative explores different kinds of creative processes. It’s a lesson book and an autobiography, as Questlove explains how he and other artists wrestle with questions of borrowing, originality, dry spells, failure and partnership. He makes suggestions and also assigns tasks. For example:

  • Begin each day by believing the opposite of everything you believe.
  • Think of two artists you know, who you consider to be very different, and imagine what project they would make if they collaborated.
  • When you’re having trouble thinking of new ideas, go to one your old ideas and rework it.
  • Imagine creating an exhibition of all the things that inspire you, and imagine how you would arrange the works in the show.

Giving the book a unique flavor is the breadth of Questlove’s experiences and wisdom. Influences range from J. Dilla to Joseph Brodsky, from Bjork to young chefs looking to make a mark, and many, many others. He has an ability to pull creative people into his orbit and that makes this a very interesting book.

I don’t know if this will make readers more creative, but it will make you think. And I don’t know – it just might help with your creative processes, too.

David Potash