I was watching an interview with Bono and Elon Musk the other day on creativity. They each had a different take on it, and I wanted to ponder the subject further. Where do artists get their inspiration?

Bono said his inspiration comes from either despair or joy. When he is in the joy phase his cup runneth over and there is joy to spare. When the business life, health, and home life is all in balance and things are going great there is a certain burst of creativity. He gets pleasure out of sharing that joy with others in a song and he starts writing like crazy.

But he also gets inspiration from despair. When he’s in a hole and needs to create to get out of it and attempt to put things right with the world. He writes songs to pull himself out of the hole. Says Bono “The great songs kind of write you”. Or as Yates says “The dancer and the dance become the same thing”.

None of this comes as a surprise to psychologists, who say that creative types have a lot more ups and downs than non creatives. They tolerate ambiguity and leave themselves open to new adventures and experiences. Their highs may be higher, but the lows are also lower. Creative artists are much more likely to live life on the edge.

Co-founder of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, sees creativity from a different angle. Musk, an engineer and inventor, favors more of a forced creativity model. As an inventor myself, I use this every day to generate new innovation.

Musk calls his method “first principles”, or basically starting with the fundamentals that you know to be true instead of making slight improvements to someone else’s system. He draws from the laws of physics as creative inspiration, and likes to take things apart to see for himself from the ground up how they work.

Most people, especially in the entertainment industry and high tech, like the idea of making slight improvements to someone else’s system instead of using the first principles method. It’s much easier to make a pitch by saying “It’s “Ghostbusters’ meets ‘Twilight”, or “Facebook meets Twitter”, rather than starting from scratch with a concept that no one has ever heard of.

As Musk says “Think until your brain hurts”. This is more of a forced creativity method that requires stripping things down to the basics and building it from the ground up. It’s also a way to make radical leaps in innovation, which Musk is known for.

As an artist, where do you get your inspiration?