The Operating System and Liminal Lab


Now that you have a seed worth exploring, you are ready for step 2 of the creative process. The goal of this phase is explosive growth, following your curiosity out from the seed in every direction.
You’ve heard of the shitty first draft? It’s a nice sentiment, writing full shitty drafts without fear or judgment, but I think you can do even better:
Write shitty piles of shit, and leave the drafting for later.
I often refer to this as the fertilizer or “bullshit” stage.
Drafting is an organizational problem. You can’t organize ideas you don’t have. Start by exploring and playing and wondering, free from fear and judgment, but also free from purpose, organization, and planning.
Don’t start with outlines. Don’t start with drafts. Start with curiosity.

A Shitty Shopping List

Our goal is to develop all the raw (shitty) materials we will need in order to start drafting. I’m not talking about pen & paper, or computers, or three cans of latex paint. I want to know what concepts, phrases, images, and aesthetics I am working with. I want to soak up inspirations, and understand my constraints.
I start with three questions:

  1. What already exists?
  2. What still needs to be gathered or created?
  3. What will inspire me?

Working on the book cover for The Posture of Contour, I asked the publishers and author for everything they had. Based on their answers, I ended up with these lists:

 Final cover design for The Posture of Contour.

What already exists?

  • Dimensions: 5.5” x 8.5”
  • SpringGun Press wordmarks
  • ISBN & bar code (on white background)
  • Title: The Posture of Contour
  • Subtitle: A Public Primer
  • Author: James Belflower
  • The content of the book itself

What still needs to be gathered or created?

  • Color palette
  • Artwork

What will inspire me?

  • Diagrams, schematics, & maps
  • Processes of abstraction & representation
  • Mouths, hands, & black spots
  • Collage
  • Cover art for “Network” by Jena Osman
  • Richard Serra drawings
  • Franz Kline
  • Paul Sharits colors
  • Stan Brakhage & Joan Miro
  • “The line between language and graphic”

They had done most of my work for me. That’s not always the case, but if you have a seed, you have enough to get started.

Sparking Curiosity

 Bodies. A diagram.

The seed I developed in phase 1 can be used directly to start a list of materials in phase 2. Unlike the cover art, this project has no pre-existing material that I am required to use. Most of the material will have to be found or created, but I do have plenty of inspiration to draw from:
What already exists?

  • Format: a stack of note cards that can be shuffled
  • Some collaborative poems with Jacob Liechty that might fit

What do I still need?

  • A writing style
  • Characters? Story?
  • Specific memories
  • More on trauma (ptsd, etc)
  • More on bodies (eating disorders, etc)
  • Other voices
  • more?…

What’s the inspiration?

  • “The Invention of Heterosexuality”
  • Research on out-of-body experiences
  • Bodies & identity
  • Sex, gender, & sexuality
  • Memory & trauma
  • Hermaphroditus, Mother Clapp, & Molly Houses
  • Jacob Liechty, Tom Waits, & Lou Reed

It’s OK that this list isn’t complete, it’s enough to make me curious, and enough to point me in the right direction.

Coming Soon

In the next few posts we’ll talk about gathering vs creating, blind variation and selective retention, judgmental brainstorming, the viewpoints, and composition — all useful tools for this explosive curiosity phase.

What point of your creative cycle do you find yourself at? Whether you’re stuck, flying high, or not even thinking of yourself as an “artist” of any medium, Eric Meyer’s FUCK THE MUSE creativity catalyst should do the trick — helping you simultaneously appreciate your process more AND take yourself (and the work) less seriously.
Exit Strata loves Eric Meyer and thinks you are getting a pretty terrific deal for the grand total of ZERO DOLLARS!!!
previously in this series:
Lesson 4 : Starting from a Seed
Lesson 3 : Creative Modes and Cycles
Lesson 2, Ordinary Tools of Thought
Lesson 1, The Art of Control (and Class Overview)
Or, start from the very beginning (a very good place to start) and familiarize yourself with Meyer’s unique, inspired perspective and approach in our series introduction, and if you decide you want to participate more actively with Eric and/or share your responses with our larger community, please email the staff at
Fuck it, be yourself.


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