Thinkering

Creativity 101, Uncategorized, Understanding Creativity

Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes the difference.

– Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s

Wait. The guy who founded Atari is the same guy responsible for Chuck E. Cheese’s? My childhood has been created by the same one guy?

That was my first thought when reading this quote at the beginning of a chapter in Zig Zag by Keith Sawyer. My second thought was that he’s absolutely right: We all have ideas. The hard part is actually making them happen.

Sawyer describes the concept of design thinking, and thinkering. This basically means that when we create, it’s important to use what’s called “rapid prototyping” to get ideas out and into reality as soon as possible. Even if just a simple version of the idea, the idea is out there, and once it’s out there, it can be developed into something real and tangible that makes an actual difference.

As the saying goes, “Unless ideas are massaged into reality, they evaporate.”

I always played with Legos when I was little. Legos, wooden building blocks, Lincoln logs, Tinkey Toys, and the Barbie cruise ship were all combined to make fantasy worlds in which Barbie lived in a log cabin before meeting a prince on a cruise, marrying him in a destination wedding on some island built from Tinker toys, and then living happily ever after in a wood block castle. My little sister and I would build sets, then use my dad’s camcorder (which used real tapes, artifacts from the 90’s) to create films with our pet cats as the actors (No animals were harmed in the making of these films). My creativity was probably at an all-time high, up there with the days in which I staged backyard musicals.

Today, kids don’t use their hands as much. Adults certainly don’t. Much of what we do is on our laptops, our smartphones, our tablets. Nothing is tangible. When I write, I write in Word or Google Docs, not a leather-bound journal like I did throughout my childhood. And we’re disconnected from our creativity without the feeling of creating something with our hands. Our ideas stay trapped on a screen, often doomed to stay inside an imaginary folder in cyberspace. And while technology has made it easier to share my words and ideas, it;s made it harder to make those words and ideas into realities.

So what can we do? In Zig Zag, Sawyer describes how we can use design thinking in our creative process through different methods, like:

  1. Doodling: By drawing things out, even using simple drawings, we can think through practical, abstract problems by giving ourselves a tangible platform on which to flesh the problems out.
  2. Collaborating
  3. Taking pictures. I recently started using a Polaroid camera more than my iPhone to take pictures, because Polaroids are tangible and capture the main idea of a scene.
  4. Visiting a craft store. All it takes is one trip to Hobby Lobby or Michael’s to get the creativity flowing.
  5. Act it out. When I think about redecorating my apartment, I move things around to get an idea of how I might want things to look instead of just sitting there thinking about it.

It’s time to get out of the shower, dry off, and make it happen!

One thought on “Thinkering

  1. I loved reading this entry. It’s full of fun and funny remarks, such as the one about Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. Plus the pet cats as actors story, with the justification that no kitty got her claws clipped in the making.

    But it’s also full of vivid descriptions of significant insights, such as thoughts staying trapped behind a screen. I have to say that it gives me hope for the future when I hear those in your generation talk about the perils of technology.

    And then there are the practical tips for creativity.

    Reading your writing is a pleasure, Alex! Makes me want to grab that towel and get to work!

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