So here is the thing:
I am captivated by creativity these days. Reading everything I can get my hands on, doing my drawing practice with abandon, writing like crazy and recalling great authors whose advice I mostly did not apply to myself. In some ways this focus makes sense. A big part of my Ikigai (a reason to get up in the morning, ) is the time I spend with my grandchildren who are uninhibitedly creative, and inventive and my work with people impacted by illness. Of course, I have also lived for three quarters of a century, so all of my interests benefit enormously by the creative arts, imagination and invention. And I might add that doing things ourselves, is the key, not just admiring other’s work. So I am really benefiting myself, which happens when we try to be useful to others.
As I was writing an article today on creativity for a different publication, it occurred to me that I had not told you about a book I found intriguing. It is called How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery” by Kevin Ashton.
Kevin, led pioneering work on RFID (radio frequency identification) networks, for which he coined the term “the Internet of Things,” and cofounded the Auto-ID Center at MIT. His writing about innovation and technology has appeared in numerous publications.
I found it fascinating when I first hear Ashton interviewed on CBC radio five years ago, when the book was published. I immediately downloaded a Kindle copy and found so many interesting ideas that I was continually sending excerpts to friends. If I recall, there were a few things that I didn’t connect with but overall I was engaged with his perspective and research around the myths of creativity and how credit is bestowed to the inventor or the maker of the final product, rather than to the team of people over generations who continually added to that outcome. I was fascinated by this research. In fact, I’m about to read it again.
Here are a few comments from others that fit my own experience.
One of the most creative books on creativity I have ever read, a genuinely inspiring journey through the worlds of art, science, business and culture that will forever change how you think about where new ideas come from.”
—William C. Taylor, cofounder and editor of Fast Company and author of Practically Radical
“[Ashton’s] is a democratic idea—a scientific version of the American dream. . . . [A]n approachable, thought-provoking book that encourages everyone to be the best they can be.”
—The Guardian (London)
“If you have ever wondered what it takes to create something, read this inspiring and insightful book. Using examples ranging from Mozart to the Muppets, Kevin Ashton shows how to tap the creative abilities that lurk in us all. There are no secrets, no shortcuts; just ordinary steps we can all take to bring something new into the world. Ashton’s message is direct and hopeful: creativity isn’t just for geniuses—it’s for everybody.”
—Joseph T. Hallinan, author of Why We Make Mistakes
“If you consider yourself a curious person then you will love this book. Ashton shares so many delightful stories of where things come from and how things came to be, I seriously believe that it will make anyone who reads it smarter.”
—Simon Sinek, New York Times bestselling author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last
The three most destructive words in the English language may be – before I begin. Kevin Ashton
It is so interesting how hard it is for some of us to begin. No matter what it is.
Oscar-winning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman: “To begin, to begin. How to start? I’m hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. I should write something first, then I’ll reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. OK, so I need to establish the themes. Maybe banana-nut. That’s a good muffin.”
This kind of mind chatter is familiar to some of us. Ashton writes this:
“The only thing we do before we begin is fail to begin. Whatever form our failure takes, be it a banana-nut muffin, a tidier sock drawer, or a bag of new stationery, it is the same thing: a non-beginning, complete with that dead car sound, all click, no ignition.
Having resisted the temptation of others, we must also resist the temptation of us. The best way to begin is the same as the best way to swim in the sea. No tiptoes. No wading. Go under. Get wet and cold from scalp to sole. Splutter up salt, push the hair from your brow, then stroke and stroke again. Feel the chill change. Do not look back or think ahead. Just go.
In the beginning, all that matters is how much clay you throw on the wheel. Go for as many hours as you can. Repeat every day possible until you die. The first beginning will feel wrong. We are not used to being with ourselves uninterrupted. We do not know the way first things look. We have imagined our creations finished but never begun…
Nothing begins good, but everything good begins. Everything can be revised, erased, or rearranged later. The courage of creation is making bad beginnings.”
There may not be a single thing that you really want to do before you die. But I suspect everyone has dreams and visions of something they want to leave behind. Maybe it is a tidy sock drawer and that’s ok, but it might be stories, videos, a song or musical composition or a new contraption of some kind. There are hundreds of things that any of us can learn to do, but there may be one or two important things that we would so like to do but are afraid to start. I wonder what they are? Will you begin?
Note 1:) The CBC interview I heard five years ago. less than 12 minutes. I won’t be the least bit offended if you don’t find him interesting.
Note 2:) I hope you are all managing the February blues, especially in the cold climates where you are housebound by temperature as well as Covid. Good news- only 3 and 1/2 weeks until daylight savings time.
Note 3:) This is celebration month in my family with Birthdays for my daughter, granddaughter and cousins, not to mention the Lunar New Year and Valentines. Any excuse will do. We have discovered that you don’t need a crowd to celebrate and video chats work for Birthday greetings. However, next year… where there is vaccine there is hope.
Note 4:) Thank you for arriving once again, to this spot. With armloads of appreciation, I thank you. I hope you have a lovely week and “begin,” or continue with that special creation of yours. Warmest wishes, Trudy
PS The banner was taken in the Gion area of Kyoto in 2014. I was awed by the market, narrow old streets, skilled crafts people creating form and function in food, art, kimona’s and so much more. Like this gentleman expertly weaving blinds, and other items by hand. It was an honour to stand and watch him and he allowed me to take his photo.