Philly Creative Guide

Guest Columnist

Craig Peters

All I Really Need To Know About Creativity I Learned Listening To Bruce Springsteen
by Craig Peters, 1 Jun 2010

Craig Peters is founder of CKPcreative and co-founder of BuxMont digital. Since the mid-1990s he has created award-winning Web site content and strategic online (and offline) marketing communications for small companies and global brands alike. Before his online work, Craig spent 15 years as a magazine editor and has written and/or edited nearly three dozen books. He blogs daily at and is active on social networks such as Twitter (where you can find him @LOHADdotcom), Facebook and LinkedIn. Not surprisingly, LOHAD is an acronym for a Bruce Springsteen song title: "Land of Hope and Dreams."

You can go to Bruce Springsteen's official Web site and search his lyrics for the words "create," "creative" and "creativity." You won't find any of them anywhere in the 268 songs listed there that he's written and recorded in the last 37 years.

Still, having listened to Springsteen and followed his career closely for most of those 37 years, I believe his career is a profound object lesson in creativity. Here are just a few things Springsteen's work says to me about the creative process; maybe some of them will speak to you, too:

All I Really Need To Know About Creativity I Learned Listening To Bruce Springsteen

"Give it everything you've got, all the time" - It's often said that there are two types of people: Bruce Springsteen fans and those who've never seen him in concert. I've seen him in concert nearly three dozen times over the years, and there is no one who works harder on that stage. Maybe you saw one of those shows he did that helped say goodbye to the Spectrum: three hours long, opening up at encore-level energy and taking it higher from there, surfing the crowd... all at 60 years of age. If each of us had half of Springsteen's work ethic, most of us would be working twice as hard as we do today.

All I Really Need To Know About Creativity I Learned Listening To Bruce Springsteen

"Defy expectations and keep it fresh" - After the triumphant 1-2-3 punch of Born To Run, Darkness On the Edge of Town and The River came the stark vision of Nebraska. When the world clamored for a follow-up to the anthemic Born In the USA album, Springsteen's response was Tunnel of Love. A couple of years after giving voice to 9/11 emotions with the E Street Band in The Rising, he went on the road with the Seeger Sessions band to rediscover and celebrate traditional roots. Fundamental to creativity, I believe, is a willingness to be open to new ideas and new directions, no matter what others may want or expect.

All I Really Need To Know About Creativity I Learned Listening To Bruce Springsteen

"Less is often more" - Springsteen is a celebrity and a rock star, but more than anything he's an accomplished writer. If you're a writer, too, you can't help but take some serious inspiration from his best turns of phrase - they're as creatively invigorating as any powerful short story or great passage in a novel. For example, "I have debts no honest man can pay" ("Johnny 99"), "saw my reflection in a window, I didn't know my own face" ("Philadelphia") and "she stares off alone into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born" ("Racing in the Street") use a remarkable economy of words to say volumes about his characters and their lives. And if there's anything more cinematically evocative in rock music than the opening lines of "Thunder Road" - "The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves, like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays" - I have yet to find it.

All I Really Need To Know About Creativity I Learned Listening To Bruce Springsteen

"Never stop learning your craft" - In an NPR interview in January 2009, Springsteen said that "as you grow older, insight, hopefully, is the key to extending your creative reach... if you want to continue to be creative and to constantly reinvent yourself, you need the insight and greater knowledge of your craft." The takeaway here, I think, is simply to always remain humble in the face of your craft: Whether you're a writer, a designer, a painter or engaging in any other creative endeavor, never have the hubris to think you have it all mastered. There's always something new to learn, and that something new you learn today could spark an exciting new idea tomorrow.

What might be most instructive about Springsteen's long career is that he hasn't fallen into irrelevance or become a tertiary act on the oldies circuit like so many of his 1970s contemporaries. After nearly four decades, he's continued to produce original music that's engaging and relevant - and shows no signs of letting up.

When all is said and done, that longevity may be his greatest creative inspiration of all.

Print Article Brought to you by: Craig Peters | President and Founder of CKPcreative

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