Wasn’t That Funny

“Man built most nobly when limitations were at their greatest.” –Frank Lloyd Wright

I keep having interesting ideas for blog posts while I’m out and about, and then I wish I had a laptop or something to hash it out on the spot, and I don’t write the idea down anywhere and it usually slips my mind.

Lately, when the writing actually works out, it’s because I’ve felt COMPELLED by circumstances — perhaps being trapped on a train, or perhaps being itched awake and unable to sleep but unable to do anything of import.

I’ve observed for a long time that creativity emerges from constraints.  As Jack White sings,

When you’re in your little room / and you’re working on something good / but if it’s really good / you’re gonna need a bigger room. / And when you’re in the bigger room / you might not know what to do / You might have to think of how you got started sitting in your little room.

So the problem I haven’t yet solved — and which many great authors, musicians, and inventors seem to have — is the question of how to “artificially” set up those constraints to turn a creator into a creation machine.  Those same creators, of course, often have an extremely high tolerance for discomfort, the side effect of constraint.  Those constraints could be things like sequestering oneself in a cabin in near-Vancouver for months on end (Neal Stephenson), suppressing one’s mental activity with alcohol to the point of liver disease (the majority of Nobel Prize winning authors to date), or setting up an elaborate, public-ridicule-susceptible ritual around what you’ve committed to do, complete with magic talismans and lucky shoelaces (Steven Pressfield).

At any rate, I suppose I should try and actually make use of my mini notebooks and pens that I diligently carry everywhere.  I will start pulling off to the side of the road when I come up with something on my bike.  Or, you know, try to convince myself that what I thought of wasn’t that interesting.  Because the alternative route, “I’ll try and remember it for later,” proves to be a dead end.

“Sometimes I’ll be in bed, and I’ll have a funny idea. But if I don’t have a pen and paper nearby, I have to convince myself that the idea wasn’t that funny.” – Mitch Hedberg

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