It seems strange that I have been doing Five Thoughts for several months now and this the first time it has crossed my mind to do five thoughts on thinking. As with most of these blogs my thought process was triggered by something I read. My current morning reading of choice is Dave Trott’s One Plus One Equals Three.
If you have read any of Dave’s Trott’s books you will know that he is both thought provoking and entertaining. Half way down a page something he wrote had me reaching for my notebook and make these five observations about thinking.
There is a difference between thinking and daydreaming. Daydreaming, that moment when you let your mind just drift. You are not really thinking, you probably can’t even remember what crossed your mind, if anything. Daydreaming is an aimless activity, nothing wrong with that but it’s not thinking. Thinking has a certain creative and critical element to it and, to my mind at least, it leads somewhere.
“It’s the thought that counts.” I have no doubt you’ve heard that expression actually you’ve probably said it. Normally it’s said when you are given a totally inappropriate gift but you are grateful that at least they thought of you. Not very well obviously for such a crap present. Thinking has to be more than just a fleeting recognition. Thinking must surely lead to doing and some form of doing that makes a difference.
Thinking has surely got to be positive and not negative. The problem with thinking, well over thinking really, is that it can quickly turn to negativity. You think about all the reasons why something can’t be done. Sometimes just going ahead without over thinking something is the way to go. I am not advocating recklessness but sometimes you just need to think on your feet, solve the problems as you encounter them not as your think about them.
Do less thinking. I have read so many top class performers, actors, athletes, artists etc talk about how they feel at their best when they just do stuff without thinking. When they over think something it all seems to go wrong. Of course they are not making it up as they go along, far from it. That level of achieving without thinking comes from hours and hours of practice and dedication but in that moment of high achievement everything comes naturally. It just flows without conscious thought. What a place to be. If you think you could never reach that level just remember you probably drive your car without much thought. Not carelessly, it just becomes second nature, natural like breathing.
Think differently. The way we think is probably the result of years of practice. We all get into a certain way of thinking about the world and the way it works. As human beings we like routine. There is safety in routine and I have no doubt we develop thought patterns along the same lines. We think a certain way because that is the way we have always thought. We have always thought that way because we have been taught and have learnt that is the way to think. Maybe we need to UNTHINK. To find another way of thinking. Not sure how you do that but it’s a thought, isn’t it?
The passage from Dave Trott’s book is on age 71 – When Thinking gets in the way
I think just about every profession goes through a creative block at some time or other. That feeling when you don’t seem to be able to do anything.
Often called writer’s block but it affects artists of all kinds, indeed anyone who is trying to create something. It might be a book or a blog, a painting or a sculpture, a new concept or a different way of working. All of us in one way or another have reached that point when no matter what we do the page, canvas, notebook or screen remains stubbornly empty. So here are my five five thoughts.
Keep a storeroom. Always seek inspiration from others. Reading, watching, listening and recording are, in my opinion, essential to creativity. Keep a notebook, scrapbook or online gallery of things that have inspired you or made you think or you just liked. When barren times come wandering around this storeroom will, I promise, spark your creativity. You will find stuff you had long forgotten, dusty and neglected that will trigger new thinking. If you are not already doing this start today, it may be a while before you see the benefit but it will help. This blog would not have been written without visiting my storeroom.
Try a bit of demolition. Any task can seem daunting and overwhelming. Being overwhelmed is not good for the creative juices. So break the project down. Find elements you can do right away. Start with small bricks and soon you will have a wall and eventually a temple. I might have pushed that metaphor a touch to far but you get the idea. War and Peace starts with one word, then one sentence.
Get on with it. Work anyway. What stifles most creativity is the screwing up of paper and throwing it in the bin. Whether metaphorically or in reality. Get some stuff done, it might be utter rubbish but you will have done something and once you get over that hurdle you’ll be surprised how ideas start to flow. Keep everything and then come back to it. It might be days, weeks or even years later. Some of it will still be crap but there will be others things you find are actually little gems.
Listen to music. The theologian Karl Barth said he did his best work to Mozart. Music can lift the spirits, get the blood pumping and inspire you. Play something that lifts your spirit and if you can play it loudly.
Realise great work comes from great struggle. There are times when things just flow. You can barely keep up with the creativity coursing through your brain. Hey, savour the good times but don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t come quite so easily. Sometimes it is the struggle that makes it all worthwhile.