I’m reading Salvador Dali’s Fifty Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, his 1948 book about creativity. A lot of it is as crazy as you would expect. Beethoven with his habit of grinding exactly sixty beans for his morning cup of coffee has nothing on Dali’s instructions for getting inspired from the kernels extracted from the eyeballs of sea perch cooked in fennel. And his observation that “a gradual pressure” exerted on the eyeballs “by an appropriate pneumatic apparatus, will make you dream in color” is slightly unsettling.
But some of it is surprisingly lucid: his instructions about hypnagogic dreaming and its utility in creativity are pretty detailed and easy to follow. More generally, though, he has some interesting things to say about the relationship between work and rest, and between unconscious inspiration and the work of painting. He regards sleep– especially the sleep before starting a new painting– as a critical prelude to the work:
It is precisely during this sleep, which you wrongly regard as reducing you to a state of paradoxical inactivity and indifference before the imminence of the work which you are preparing to execute, that you will secretly, in the very depths of you spirit, solve most of its subtle and complicated technical problems, which in your state of waking consciousness you would never be humanly capable of solving. So that, at the moment of waking from this precious preliminary sleep… you will be able to say to yourself, without fear of falling into exaggeration, that the principal part— that is to say the sleep— of the work is already done.