I’m just diving into Jonah Lehrer’s new book on creativity, Imagine: How Creativity Works. We’ve discussed creativity here extensively, and even addressed how to be creative, but I hope to share some new insights from this book soon. In the meantime, the trailer for the book is pretty cool:
When we tell one another stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit, when we believed that our problem was impossible to solve. Because such failures contradict the romantic version of events (there is nothing triumphant about a false start), we forget all about them. The failures also remind us of how close we came to having no stories to tell. Instead, we skip straight to the breakthroughs. We tell the happy endings first.
The danger of telling this narrative is that the feeling of frustration, the act of being stumped, is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer — before we probably even know the question — we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach. We need to have wrestled with the problem and lost. Because it’s only after we’ve stopped searching for the answer that the answer arrives. The imagination has a wicked sense of irony.