People are inherently creative. When it comes to creative thinking, it’s safe to say that at one time we have all been guilty of expressing our ideas before they were ready for prime-time at some point. Often when new ideas are being formed the words that come out of our mouths have only a passing resemblance to the brilliant little lights of genius that we originally had in our heads. Talking about the as-yet unformed little kernels of creative genius too early has a damaging effect because forcing the unshaped into shapes (pushing meanings into words) before they have matured has an unfortunate tendency to cut off significant chunks of wisdom.
A small piece of genius badly expressed runs the risk of being considered dismissible at best, at worst dismissive of the creative thinker.
Take a second and think of a time when you had a fantastic idea – one so good that your brain was racing just trying to keep up. If you excitedly began to talk about the idea too soon, somehow you didn’t get it right didn’t you? For some weird reason it didn’t sound so intelligent coming out of your mouth. Frustrated, you tried to explain it another way but somehow that didn’t work either.
In fact the more you talked the more you lost the thread of what you were saying…it’s as if the words you were speaking somehow took you further away from what you were trying to say. But you KNEW it was a stroke of genius when it was in your brain before you tried to describe it…didn’t you?
So was it a totally dumb idea disguised as a stroke of genius, or was it a stroke of genius that got dumber as you tried to explain it?
If you’re like many people, after having the experience of explaining an idea badly, and then losing the essence of the first thought, you would probably come to believe that it wasn’t all that brilliant to begin with. You’d rationalize that talking about it revealed the obvious flaws and you might have been embarrassed how stupid the idea was in the first place, and relieved you found out how dumb it was before investing money!
In the end you rationalized that what really happened was that the process of stuffing the idea into a bunch of words turned what you thought was genius into the obviously dumb idea it had been all along.
What if in fact the idea was brilliant and had been from the beginning? What if it was actually a stroke of genius but the real problem had been the attempt to define and express it before it was ready to be expressed and translated to the world of the five senses?
What if the exercise of taking a brilliant (but unprocessed) piece of thought and talking about it too early drained it of meaning…or distorted it so much the original kernel of genius was obscured and lost.
Okay so how does that happen? How can the process of communication actually distort the meaning of what it is we’re trying to say?
Words and Meaning
First off there is a huge distinction between the words we use and the underlying meaning we want to communicate.
Think for a second about how words tend to be fairly rigid containers of meaning. Words mean what they mean, but that meaning doesn’t expand far beyond the boundary of their meaning. Dogs are dogs and horses are horses.
Now think about meaning beyond words. If you think of meaning as a liquid that is poured over words streaming out of our mouths in a chain of sentences, you can imagine that when the meaning is much richer than the current vocabulary, bits of the meaning are necessarily deleted, distorted or generalized to accommodate the word flow.
So until an idea is fully formed and well-understood, the words chosen to convey it run the risk of being imprecise enough to literally destroy the tiny kernels of genius that the idea represented.
So next time you have a fantastic idea, follow these simple guidelines designed to protect your creative genius.
- No matter when the idea arrives, take a minute or two and scribble down the broadest outline, keeping it very general.
- Go back to what you were doing immediately – sleeping, cycling, walking whatever. Immediately continue the previous activity .
- Get out of your own way. Think of ANYTHING else. By preserving the core of the idea on paper, trust that it is protected. By shifting your attention to something mundane, you are allowing the internal process of genius to continue without interference.
Trust your subconscious’ ability to continue the job it started – developing the brilliant thought it came up with in the first place. You’ll be glad you did!