Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks were filled with drawings; ideas for flight, optics, weird engineering solutions. Extraordinarily prescient, yet most things came to nothing in his lifetime. They were just ideas. The other ideas that needed to go with them didn’t yet exist.
Stradivari’s violins were acclaimed in his day, and he was commissioned by crowned heads and the wealthy. And yet, his violins gained their current reputation later, when concerts changed from court salons and churches to vast concert halls. It was his instruments that had enough volume to fill the new, modern spaces – though, even then, with some changes being made to them, devised by other luthiers faced with the needs of musicians a century or so later.
Creatives have ideas. That’s we do
And yet, until those ideas meet other ideas, they don’t become a ‘creation’. Is having ideas the same as ‘creating’. I don’t think it is, and yet it’s easy to confuse the two.
I’ve been wrestling with ideas in the past few weeks. I’m asking myself: what direction is this going? Is there a connection between this idea, and that one? It’s not a comfortable place. The emotional terrain is very rocky: up a mountain with a moment of insight that feels it will last for ever. Down again, when I can’t find words that link what I thought I knew with what I want to say.
Ideas are dots joined together. But they’re not a whole picture. That’s what our job is.
We make the glue between the dots.
We find ideas and combine them.
We show the connection – or the interaction, or the contrast – between different things. That’s what it means to look at something differently.
Ideas without connections don’t go anywhere. Connections are what drives action, the taking of an idea and making it into something that goes out into the world.
The unsung song. The unwritten novel. The play, pages dusty in a drawer or, more realistically, on that old laptop you can’t quite bring yourself to get rid of. If we don’t keep creating, our ideas can never meet the ideas that will bring them to life. Our ideas need people, the situations, the knowledge and expertise, or maybe, as filmmaker Elena Rossini describes, the very challenge of making difficulty into a creative project.
The ritual of discovery
Choreographer Twyla Tharp describes in The Creative Habit an exercise she does daily. It involves starting curling yourself into an egg shape, as small as you can.
‘I have nowhere else to go; I cannot become smaller, I can only expand and grow. And so it becomes a ritual of discovery for me… You cannot hold the starting position forever, though you can hold it for as long as you like. Eventually, however, you’ll have to do something. Egg is an exercise that teaches you how to accomplish the most difficult task in any creative endeavour: begin.’