Hitting the Creative Bullseye

Starry NightSource: The Van Gogh Gallery

Thought for the Week

When you’re “a creative,” i.e. a person who creates original works of any type, you struggle continually to make something meaningful. Your art form—writing, music, photography, whatever—probably has some kind of “rules.” But following those rules, or breaking them for that matter, doesn’t guarantee a meaningful result. Does anything? Yes! And I can sum it up in a single word:


I’m guessing you want an explanation. When I was young, as a member of “the next Beatles,” I was constantly trying to figure out what made a song memorable. And then I stumbled on a singer-songwriter name Todd Rundgren who’d written and produced a string of infectious singles. Like me, Todd had sought to find that “something.” He found it, and went on to be one of the most influential music producers in history.

Analyzing what he found, I realized that literally all memorable songs had three rings, as it were, and I dubbed these “nazz” in honor of Todd’s first band The Nazz. Later, after spotting it in Van Gogh’s paintings and in a jazz ballet by Alvin Ailey, I realized nazz was the “something,” the bullseye for virtually all creative forms.

Creating nazz means creating something that to your viewers, listeners, or readers:

  1. Is unexpected, a melody that juxtaposes notes or chords in a way they didn’t anticipate, or a story with a plot turn they didn’t see coming (the transitions in “Yesterday,” the set-up for Les Miserables or ending of The Sixth Sense), and yet…
  2. Instantly feels “right” or necessary when they see, hear, or experience it (which means step one can’t simply be random or meaningless), which therefore…
  3. Surprises them, creating a sense of delight or fascination that lingers, and maybe even haunts them long afterward.

And there it is. Easy to say, hard to accomplish. But hopefully now, as a creative, you’ll at least have a little better sense of what that bullseye looks like. It looks like, well…


About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Hitting the Creative Bullseye

  1. wynneleon says:

    I love that you have come up with a formula – and it makes sense even as it is hard to do. But that #2, “instantly feels right” is such a wonderful way of putting that sweet spot when Truth hits people regardless of experience, perspective and background! Thanks, Mitch!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. We loved seeing the Van Gogh paintings in Holland ..We have a copy of this ..

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You are so right–nazz is easy to say, hard to accomplish.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Phill Gibson says:

    As a TR fan from waaay back, I can understand your description in his music. Great definition, great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michael Sammut says:

    The formula you came up with makes sense and very well explained.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So that’s why the ending of Christy by Catherine Marshall is so satisfying, and that every time I read it the ending was a satisfying surprise. Hmm, need to read it again, but I just pulled out the Narnia books to reread.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Bob Teague says:

    Another one like Todd, was Warren Zevon…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. GolNaran says:

    What a lovely subject and thoughtful admiring writing!
    You could sum it up in a single word, beautifully:
    “originality’ + “salt” + “special energetic signature” of the artist/creator that makes a work eternal = Nazzi!

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jack Gator says:

    Good afternoon Mitch: By chance, did you ever meet John Braheny? I met him in Hollywood when he was a producer of music. Spent a bit of time crashing with him. Oh, by the way, all those stories on Gators grace notes are true stories in my life. Try the motorcycle pilgrimage series or 40 acres of musicians.’Escape and capture’ isn’t too bad either. It’s pretty good.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. pastorpete51 says:

    Well said but knowing and finding that “Nazz” is always a bit like miracle and no amount of trying helps.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Nancy Ruegg says:

    You make Nazz look easy, Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Yael_Eliyahu says:

    Well put! I’m still figuring out what that looks like for my own writing, but I know it will get there!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. There is a Dazz moment in the 2017 Batman with Michael Keaton. Fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Abe Austin says:

    I think you’re describing something that I’ve noticed as well. The reason why “Luke, I am your father” lands so well is not just because it is a surprise, but because it is a surprise that somehow feels truer than our previous notion that Darth Vader had killed Luke’s father.

    Stories that only subvert expectations simply for the sake of being subversive miss the fact that surprises only land when they somehow makes the overall experience feel more right and complete.

    Liked by 5 people

  15. Staci Troilo says:

    I agree… easy to say; hard to accomplish. You forgot to mention that most people find it impossible to know what’s missing from their work to begin with. Thanks for articulating it. That feels like half the battle.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: Hitting the Creative Bullseye – MobsterTiger

  17. Nazz… Great word Mitch. The idea of giving your readers something to consider, chew on, and to constantly come back to, is very appealing.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Looking for my Nazz every day. God bless, Mitch. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: Witty Remark – Surprised By Joy

  20. gpavants says:


    On the nazz with that one. Yes, creatives have to have good outlets, but not too many in order to focus their craft.



    Liked by 1 person

  21. Todd’s an adventurous guy. He always has liked to test himself and to expand his horizons. Worthy approaches!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Some great proofs in math are like that too.  Bhaskara’s proof of Pythagoras’ Theorem and Leonardo’s pizza-cutting proof of the formula for the area of a circle are prime examples.  The whole approach is utterly unexpected, but the rightness of the basic idea is instantly obvious before any fastidious checking of details.  W/o even trying, the reader memorizes the proof and treasures it ever after, with delight tinged by a little regret at not having thought of something so obvious in hindsight.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Japhetm says:


    Liked by 1 person

  24. c.f. leach says:

    Reblogged this on Rhemalogy and commented:
    Here are some helpful writer’s tips from Mitch Teemley. He’s a Writer, Filmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer and my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. c.f. leach says:

    Hope you don’t mind but I needed a filler for my writer’s tips this week. These last couple weeks have been really hectic and I do love this post. Blessings and Peace!

    Liked by 1 person

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