What percentage of your visible world would you say you can see?
Yes, you read that correctly.
The obvious answer is “all of it.”
That’s the definition of visible, the part of the world that you can see. But stick with me…
Let’s do an experiment. Take a quick survey of your surroundings. Casually note the objects around you while I tell you a story.
Last week I had insomnia. Have you been there? You are about to dose off when, BAM, an idea appears from nowhere and your brain is off to the races. Things click into place and before you know it you have a roadmap in your mind for something that will consume your energy for days, weeks, perhaps a lifetime. Where did that come from?
This is the biggest question posed to creators. Where do your ideas come from? What makes you do the things you do? What inspires you?
To answer those tough questions, humans invent myths about talent. Books are written, seminars sell out, cults form around those who seem to know the answer. Meanwhile our schools segregate children into buckets, some pointed at scientific endeavors and others with artistic trajectories. Creativity is optional, a skill reserved for people with certain job titles. Some of us are better at rejecting our assigned buckets than others. And yet all of us at some point have been touched by inspirational insomnia. Whose imagination hasn’t been captured by a big idea? We all possess the potential to change the world. But how?
Back to you.
How much did you see when you scanned your surroundings? Let’s try it again, but this time select one thing and concentrate on it alone. Why is it the way it is? Where did it come from? What would happen if you used it the wrong way? How would you draw it? If you broke it, what could you do with its pieces? How would it look in different light? How was it made? Does something annoy you about it? How would you improve it? Who does it remind you of? What stories would it tell if it could talk? Let your mind drift to peripheral thoughts, find the loose threads and gently tug on them for a little while.
What just happened? Did the world change in the minutes between your first look and your second, more focused survey? No. And yet something is different. Something appeared from nowhere, something happened. You saw something one way, and then it changed. So let’s return to the original question:
What percentage of your visible world would you say you can see? The answer is less obvious this time around, isn’t it?
And this is the greatest Jedi mind trick of all time. It feels like observation is simply discovering things that are already there. It seems like our world is a closed loop, a balanced equation. And yet this is an illusion. These are not the droids you are looking for. As far as your consciousness is concerned, nothing exists until the moment you notice it.
Let me repeat that. Nothing exists until the moment you notice it.
Creativity is what happens in that moment. If you participate in the experience, your observation creates a new reality. But if you don’t attend these moments your world is a snow globe — self-contained, sterile, and boring.
Observation is like breathing, we do it so naturally that it usually contains no magic. It is so easy to become complacent, to stumble through life like zombies, bumping into obstacles and tripping through traps. But you don’t have to accept that reality, you can forge your own. The more you look, the more you see.
Thanks for reading. I write on Saturdays. You should follow me if you enjoy having your snow globe shaken. Stay creative.