Whenever I give a creativity lecture at University, or in artist´s or corporate workshops or talks, I always commence by asking everyone if they would not mind signing an agreement with me before we start. Nothing legal, mind you. But all important when it comes to preparing the ground before we seed it with fresh concepts, or with new interpretations of old ones.
The agreement basically asks everyone to accept that, for the duration of our time together, they will pay no attention to their “inner voices”.
Some people look at me with surprise, as if hearing voices was something more related to being a little crazy than overly sane. Sooner or later, they all smile shyly as most finally admit that they all hear them (and most, to their dismay, even have full “conversations” with their alter egos).
The fact remains that, even if many of us will deny it, we all do hear voices and converse with them. They may not be like “good Homer & evil Homer” (which by the way, as many things in the Simpsons, is a take on the Flintstone´s and the “saintly Fred / evil Fred” of decades ago), but they nevertheless engage us into inner conversations about what to do, how we feel, or about the way we should react to everyday dilemmas as they compare, and weigh-in, the different possible scenarios.
While they are mostly helpful, these voices can sometimes work against us.
That is because what we usually refer to as “original thought”, is in fact mostly a remix of existing information and knowledge, plus perhaps a new take on it (many times based on our own personal experiences), or perhaps a different engagement, calculation or approach, or a combination into one of what were -until now- separate avenues of development. It is a fact that whenever one hears about a “new” idea or theory, it will resonate somehow as most of us, at some point, have either heard, seen, or read something similar, or related to it -factual or as an exercise of the imagination-.
That is the time when the little voice becomes an issue. It tells you “Oh yes! I saw that on Discovery Channel last year”, or “I read something about this in such and such review”. In other words, “This is old news”.
We feel energized by this fact because our egos love “knowing” before others, but the ensuing feeling of apparent superiority becomes dangerous. Because as a result, you may also turn off your attention from whatever you are being exposed to as “I already know what this is” (or at least you become convinced that you do) and there is no point wasting your time with it.
Every bit of information that comes your way after that moment just “bounces” of your brain into infinity. And the whole exercise simply becomes a lost opportunity to open up your mind and explore something different, something creative, and something that may ultimately move you forward (or sideways, or at least definitely somewhere else than where you are).
I could go on. But one of the most important lessons to take away from all of this should be that it is always better -much better in fact- to listen, even argue, with others rather than just discuss things with yourself. I am not denying that introspection is also part of the process, and there is always a time for it as well. But everything has a place and a role to fulfill. Without others our conclusions will be simply poorer, less empathic, and less sustainable in the long run.
Next time you are entering a creative process of your own and people try to give you their opinions or information, just press “mute” in your head, and make an effort to look and listen to everything that is being put in front of you as openly as you can, almost like in the way a child looks at something that he or she has just discovered.
The truth is that every individual view of one same event is slightly different. Our brain is the filter between “reality” (which is no more than a perception of whatever is “out there”) and who we are. Each brain is a unique sift, and everybody´s views will enrich a result. They will definitely make it better and different -and perhaps they will even make it unique, or help you make it unique-.
So whenever you are presented with something that may be new, and “the voice” begins to play havoc, try to follow this little guide:
I can promise that you will not regret it.
Until next time.
©2016 by Ignacio Alperin Bruvera