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November 3, 2018: The Writing Life: Creativity

I’ve been reading and enjoying Philippe Petit’s Creativity: The Perfect Crime. I generally shy away from books or movies with titles that have the words murder, crime, or the like in them because I abhor violence and I don’t like mysteries. And actually, I tend to veer away from books that have the word creativity in the title because these sort of books are too formulaic or touchy feely.

The reason why I picked this book up at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon was twofold. First of all, Philippe is one of my heroes because he is all about movement. He is a tightrope walker, juggler, unicyclist, and pickpocket. I really enjoyed his book To Reach the Clouds and the two documentaries about his having tightrope walked between the Twin Trade Towers. This was in the 1970s, before the towers collapsed.

Philippe is a very high energy guy, and this book is reflective of this. He leaps from one idea to the next, seemingly effortlessly. There are gaps

between sentences and paragraphs; this accentuates the premise that he’s making metaphorical leaps. These leaps aren’t too vast – Philippe’s belief that creativity and crime are synonymous terms remains a constant throughout his book.

Yesterday I wrote about the subconscious, noting that this is where problem solving takes place. Philippe concurs, but more specifically he notes that he thinks that the subconscious does its work when we sleep. He writes: “we spend almost a third of our lives asleep and a third of that time dreaming. The brain areas that restrict our thinking to the familiar and the logical are less active during REM sleep; I can take advantage of that.”

I write and solve problems in my sleep. When I’m about to fall asleep, I place one unsolved problem, one only, under my pillow, metaphorically, of course. Once the opacity of sleep has sheltered my mind from the outside world, my subconscious decides on the right direction and travels at sonic speed. It retrieves the solution I need, which sails from outer space to paint my whirling inner space. When the motion stops, I wake up.

I must immediately jot down the solution my unconscious holds at its fingertips or else the whole thing evaporates in the moonlight.”

This is obviously a highly imaginative mind at work. I do believe that the subconscious problem solves at night, but I think that it works just as hard during the day. I wonder what Philippe would say about this.

Philippe, like me, also has idea days. His words could be mine when he writes ”I toy with an idea until it becomes a fixation. The French have a name for it: idee fixe. It is an idea that lodges in your brain with the understanding that it will refuse to leave.”

Philippe’s book is one that those who have a creative bent should read, for I suspect that they’ll see commonalities inherent to their own creative process. I for one, after reading this book, took heart in discovering that another’s musings about this subject were much like my own.

Next: 308. 11/4/18: The Wonderful world of Play

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