Creativity

Dreams are improv sketches seeded by recent events, designed to sharpen our intuitions upon waking

I noticed in my dream journals that each dream contains 50 or so elements from my waking life. I can always point to something in the dream and say, "Oh, that's because I smelled that chapstick" or "That's because of that grimace on my co-worker's face."

Your internal dream-maker is a playwright whose resources are your buffer of interesting incidents from the week. He or she then puts on a show with all these elements colliding with each other. Think of it like an improv skit with audience-participation, where you're the only audience member. The skit follows the same improv rule of "Yes-And" whereby for every place the skit goes, you're supposed to accept it and ask what's next. This makes it extremely fantastical, but also very creative. The skit then becomes like a giant what-if machine, letting your mind speculate on a tremendous number of possibilities for whatever is on your mind.

So your dreams become a place where you can see your social conflicts resolved or you can find the missing piece for your dissertation. And while your memory of the entire skit is erased as you wake up, you still retain a lingering sense of epiphany.

So consider each of the 50 dreams we have a night like 50 creative workshops, whereby your issues are hashed out. This is why we feel a renewed sense of understanding when tackling our problems after a good night's sleep. But only if we choose to begin the day anew.

If "loud, repetitive thoughts" are the hallmark of neurotic minds, then "quiet, organic thoughts" are the hallmark of calm, mindful ones

If "loud, repetitive thoughts" are the hallmark of OCD/anxious temperament, then "quiet, organic thoughts" are the hallmark of a calm, neurotypical mind. Another way of thinking about "quiet, organic thoughts" is to consider it a form of "indirect thinking." Whereas a neurotic, when faced with a life problem, may sit in a chair, and actively analyze and develop solutions, a neurotypical person will wait and let ideas come to them.

There are some devices that aid indirect thinking. Examples include Tarot cards, I-Ching, astrology, etc. A Tarot card reading gives you a chance to access the issues in your life without having to confront them directly, which can be stressful and lead to loud, repetitive thoughts.

It's possible to expand this indirect thinking to the rest of your life. For example, you may find yourself in the shower, lost in thought, on the verge of a nervous breakdown over anxieties about work. But instead of turning inward, wracking your head to find a solution, you could turn outward and notice the shower tiles. You could let your eyes drift, allowing you to notice the grout. Eventually, the symbol of a grid appears in your head, and you realize that it's a metaphor for your problems. You could read into it that you're in prison, which might spur you to quit outright, rather than trying to haggle for a raise.

Roger von Oech's The Creative Whack Pack and Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies are both decks of cards that prompt readers to make metaphors, forcing you to remix your world to come up with novel solutions.

Indirect thinking can also be a good compromise between thought-cessation and over-thinking. When over-thinking floods your mind, a part of you might scream to "stop thinking." Initially, this might work, but it's impractical to do it more than onceā€”in many cases, the thoughts you're trying to quell may get stronger. Because thought-cessation seems impossible, many over-thinkers simply give up and assume they're stuck with their condition. Indirect thinking would allow them to continue living their lives, while still searching for solutions in the background, using their intuition and living serendipitously.

Innovation is like a virus. Principles like "always on" or "in the cloud" only have to be proven once before disrupting everything

One strategy for coming up with new high-tech products or services is to concoct superlative hypothetical situations out of existing technology. For example, a budding entrepreneur could look around at his office, point to something, and add the prefix "always on." "What would be different if we had an always-on camera? What would be different if my microphone was always on? What if the screen on my phone was always on? What if unlimited data was a genuine promise, and one could have always-on file transfers on their phones?"

Other exaggerated modifiers could be, "on your wrist," "the size of a pinhead," or "in the cloud." Given the inexorable trend of technological growth, this seemingly amateur parlor trick generates business ideas that reliably anticipate future trends. What one component gets, every component eventually gets. If something is "on your wrist" or "in the cloud" today, why couldn't everything else be that way tomorrow?

The purpose of blogging is the same as dream journaling: By writing down our days, we get better at remembering we have them

We have fifty-some dreams per night, but as we wake up, little scrubbers in our brain erase our memories of them. Some of these dreams are vivid dreams, where you can see everything in HD, like little goosebumps. And some of these dreams are lucid dreams, where you can dictate your wildest fantasies. We live this rich, imaginative life every time we sleep, and yet most of it is inaccessible to us because we forget.

Dream journaling fights back at this process, and the more I do it, the more my dream world becomes a part of my waking world. The stories, images, and characters linger after I wake up, and I use them to instruct my creativity and ideas. I almost feel a little boost of superhuman enhancement, like I'm experiencing more (interesting) hours per day than the average human.

Blogging has the same effect as dream journaling. I have fifty-some ideas throughout the day, but if I don't blog or speak about them, I forget them. I even forget that I had them in the first place, similar to dream-forgettery. It gets to the point where I don't think I have any ideas to speak of unless I keep a journal. And then I talk to someone, or I write something down, and it's like a flashlight goes off in a cave, and all these batty ideas come flying out the portico.

The strength of a nation's creative class is only important if it indirectly helps build war machines

Everything comes back down to war. In the contest for scarce resources, force is the final answer. The ability to remove an opponent, i.e. to kill members of the same species, is the ultimate use-case for all the tools that evolution has provided us. Perhaps in 99 years out of a 100, those tools are not necessary, because there is an abundance of food, or simply that constant war is not efficient for a species. But it's in that 1 out of 100 times that all that intervening 99 years of work comes into play.

There is often an underlying notion that the history of humanity of moving towards greater intelligence. Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class, for example, paints a picture of a world where everybody is individually expressing themselves through creative projects. That somehow, a world where everybody is creative is the ultimate fulfillment of humankind's destiny. That just around the corner we will achieve that glorious intellectual environment of Ancient Greece, like Raphael's The School of Athens.

However, this supposed glory days of Ancient Greece was built on the backs of a 50% slave population. Also, Ancient Greece was supplanted by Ancient Rome, which had some elements of anti-intellectualism. Cato the Elder, for example, was for traditional Roman military values and plainspokenness.

Countries often go through intellectual purges and survive, possibly even thrive. We may yet see how China, post-Cultural Revolution, with its restriction on freedom of speech, will play out.

Creativity in America has led it to be the economic powerhouse that it is (combined with a great civic organization, hard-working people, and diverse natural resources). The GDP bought from that innovation has given the country a military necessary to rule the world. But could a less creative and innovative nation have a greater military in the future?

The standard narrative is that America's continued pluck and innovation America will keep it ahead. But all that creativity is only important if it can ultimately impact its war machine.