Gathering the Dots

Gathering the Dots

To connect the dots means to find the big picture. To reveal something that was not apparent by looking at discrete pieces separately. Often coming in a form of epiphany, it’s been an integral part of problem solving, innovation and invention. As creators we work with ideas and concepts that are the dots, that we then play with and connect into a meaningful whole that we’ve been looking for.

It becomes apparent that having a bigger bag of dots and having more to play with we’ll be able to come up with more ingenious solutions to our creative problems. Influences in work of great creators are the dots that have made the biggest emotional impact on them. In my last post I cited Ralph W. Emerson “Our best thoughts come from others”. What we are dealing with is a pool of ideas. We don’t really create anything, we just put things together in new ways that are uniquely us.

Einstein said:

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

It’s not really the secret. It’s not been locked away and kept from the masses. It appears a secret, because most people believe that they are the creators of original ideas. If you suffer from that affliction, why don’t you check out my last post: Disidentyfying with Results of Creation.

Pablo Picasso has been more frank about his sources:

“Good artists borrow; great artists steal.”

There’s an important clue included in Einstein’s quote though – and it’s about the sources. The dots. You can’t hide them unless you have them. So how do we go about gathering the dots?

We talked about the importance of doing. Of course, we can read and listen about ideas, but the most richness comes from our own experience. The dots grow bigger, more vibrant and span more dimensions. It doesn’t mean that we have to be doing anything related to our field of creative pursue at all. Often it’s the opposite. Check Greg’s article here: True Inspiration Comes From Outside of Your Field 

Read (and watch)
Great many thoughts and experiences have been roaming freely within books, movies and documentaries. It’s easy to get flooded with those, but they are there for us. I’ve been suffering for long time from aversion to books, movies etc. As a result my creative stock of dots has been running low. As soon as I read a chapter of a book I like I find handful of ideas and analogies for my writing. We can be playing with same old dots all our lives until they wear out and our creativity together with them.Listen
Everybody has a story to tell. Jim Rohn said:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Whether we hold the quote as true or not, the variety and the width of the social circle we move in grows in colour with its span. Fat dots can be harvested there. Openness towards others also helps in the next two points.

Having spent life in one place on Earth we risk falling into a true perspective trap. Once we figure out things that work for us we think these are the only and true ways of experiencing them. The moment we venture out and meet other cultures our assumptions are tested and often the best (safest and most productive) approach is to give them up and live through (or at least understand) another perspective without judging any as right or wrong. The old adage holds: “When in Rome do as Romans do.”

Spend Time In Nature
Nature holds all the answers. No idea or invention is separate from it. We are not separate from it. Finding time to observe it doesn’t only relax and cleanse us, but offers the infinity of dots for us to take and play with.

Focus Attention
Unless we have very boring lives in which we mostly consume commercial mass produce (which then I’d say removing your attention is the first step to creative salvation) then we don’t even have to do anything more than we already do. It’s sufficient to do it with more attention. When we focus on the present moment with anything that we are currently involved with, a whole world of experience opens for us. Being receptive in our environment can give insight spanning multiple dimensions of life.

Artist Date
Julia Cameron in her brilliant book on regaining creativity – The Artist’s Way – illustrates the method for refilling the well of creativity. By acknowledging the need to gather the dots and scheduling time weekly for activities that just appeal to us, but previously were not seen as critical to well-being of our creativity, we start the process of rebirth as an artist.Then What?
As Franz Kafka, Austrian poet and philosopher said:

“You need no leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait. You need not even wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
And this advice applies to gathering and connecting the dots alike. We are not our ideas, because ideas are not ours. We are, however, how we put ideas together.


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