In part 1 of How To Be More Creative, we discussed problems with sameness, distractions, and the creative perils of being a passive spectator too often.
Today I want to talk briefly about the best friend my own creativity has ever had: confusion.
The negative meaning(s) of confusion
Confusion is rarely a pleasant experience, at least not by most definitions. Have you ever taken a wrong turn and become lost and frustrated as you tried to make your way back?
Not a good feeling. We only need to look at a few of the antonyms of confusion to see that it’s normally not considered a good thing:
Who wants a lack of those things?
The positive side of confusion
How to be good at being confused. My favorite definitions of confusion have always come from Encyclopedias of law. Here is my paraphrased version of several of them:
A mixture of two things
I like it. It feels right to me. I like it because I like associations. The more associations I am capable of making, the more creative I feel.
Have you ever had a moment of clarity where it all just came together and suddenly the idea was there? When I have those moments, it is generally because I have been willing to spend some time being confused.
I picture my own confusion like this: the inside of my head is full of snippets, fragments, and contradictory thoughts that are all bouncing around. Sometimes they run into each other and are mutually repellent. But sometimes they collide and stick together.
A new idea is formed. A new line of thought. A positive change of course that might never have occurred without confusion.
Fusion is the creation of a union. The prefix “con” means “with,” or “together.” Add it to fusion and what do you get? Ta da! Confusion!
No, I did not make that up. Someone much smarter than me told it to me in a high school government class, but I’ve never forgotten it.
There are two times I can think of when I am never confused, meaning that there is no movement (positive or negative) in my head:
1. When I am being a passive spectator and my brain shuts off.
(I should say that there I believe there is a lot of productivity that can occur subconsciously while being passive, but I’m thinking more in terms of aimless web surfing or watching a stupid sitcom that I don’t even think is funny)
2. Directly after a creative breakthrough
This is when I’m experiencing the relief of earning the idea. I was willing to be engaged and confused, the right ideas and associations met each other, and the new course was defined, although it could shift again very soon.
When I am not feeling creative, it is usually because I am refusing to focus on problems that I want to solve. This is typically because I am avoiding the potential discomforts of confusion, deflecting it with mindless activities that get me nowhere.
My greatest ideas seem to come out of nowhere, but I don’t think that’s true at all. I think it’s the result of enough focused curiosity and engagement with confusion to earn the resulting insight.
What say you? Maybe this post just shows that I’m more confused than I thought and it’s all bad confusion:)
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