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Rod Serling on the Twilight Zone in front of black and white circle background

Rod Serling: On Where Creative Ideas Come From


The creator of The Twilight Zone lucidly explains the origin of creativity.

The name Rod Serling may not say much. But if we’re talking about the fourth dimension, things quickly change. Surely, Serling’s Twilight Zone was one of the most iconic series in television history, a forerunner of a later furor in these types of programs and without which later series like The X- Files might never have been made.

In 1972 interview, Serling answered the question of a student who wanted to know where Serling’s ideas came from. Of course, creativity has always been mysterious because although we all have the same capabilities (we think, we look, we know how to read, etc.), we don’t all arrive at the same ingenious ideas, nor even the same basic ideas. In this sense, Serling’s answer is extremely lucid, in that he refers to what is perhaps the most precious commodity of creativity:

Ideas come from the earth. They come from every human experience that you either witness or have read about translated into your brain and your own sense of dialogue and your own language form… Ideas are born from what is smelled, heard, seen, experienced, felt, emotionalized. Ideas are probably in the air, like little tiny items of ozone. The easiest thing on Earth is to come up with an idea. The hardest thing on Earth is to put it down. Who was it who said, “Writing is the easiest thing on Earth. I simply walk into my study. I sit down. I put the paper in the typewriter and I fix the margins and I turn the paper up and I bleed.”?

Interestingly, this response was very different from one given recently by David Lynch to the same question. Serling’s advantage is in pointing to subjectivity as the source of creative thinking, as if to say that no one can be creative like you can but for the fact that, simple or complicated, no one has experienced the world as you have.

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