In Which He Learns To Play The Cards He’s Dealt
Posted 5th January 2015
Mr Brian Eno, the co-author of the “Oblique Strategies” cards
Would you trust all your biggest creative decisions to a strange pack of cards from the 1970s?
If you answered “definitely not”, you should probably look away now. But if you answered “yes” or “maybe”, then stick around. I may have found a cure for your January back-to-work blues.
“Oblique Strategies: Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas” is a set of one hundred cards. The cards are designed to help you think more creatively under pressure.
Each one contains an aphorism, that offers you an escape from your creative panic or rut. Examples range from “think like a gardener,” to “tidy up”, and “honour thy mistake as a hidden intention”.
Pick a card, any card. . .
Messrs. Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt first published “Oblique Strategies” in 1975. As these two celebrated creatives explained:
“They can be used as a pack (a set of possibilities being continuously reviewed in the mind) or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if its appropriateness is quite unclear.”
On the advice of my creative partner Mr Daniel Adie, I’ll draw a new card every morning for the next month. What’s written on the card will guide my creative thinking and decisions for that day. I’ll report back each week on my adventures.
Play a hand yourself
You can buy the cards online if you fancy having a go yourself. You could also try the app, but in all honesty the digital version seems to miss the point. The physical cards have a Tarot-like feel that’s a big part of their attraction. And, as my friend Dr Michael Aspinall pointed out to me, “there’s nowt random when a computer’s involved”.
“Give the game away.”
Thanks for reading.
Mr Simon Armitage’s Radio 4 programme on “Oblique Strategies” is well worth a listen.
Mr Daniel Adie is a comic book writer and Twitter Sensation™. He’s also a rival wizard of mine.
Dr Michael Aspinall is an engineer, international athlete, and co-author of two cookbooks for runners.