Ideas do not come to us out of nowhere. Instead, we come upon something by accident—in the case of Graham, a radio announcement that he hears, or questions from the audience after a lecture. If we are experienced enough and the moment is ripe, this accidental encounter will spark some interesting associations and ideas in us. In looking at the particular materials we can work with, we suddenly see another way to use them. All along the way, contingencies pop up that reveal different paths we can take, and if they are promising, we follow them, not sure of where they will lead. Instead of a straight-line development from idea to fruition, the creative process is more like the crooked branching of a tree.
The lesson is simple—what constitutes true creativity is the openness and adaptability of our spirit. When we see or experience something we must be able to look at it from several angles, to see other possibilities beyond the obvious ones. We imagine that the objects around us can be used and co-opted for different purposes.
We do not hold on to our original idea out of sheer stubbornness, or because our ego is tied up with its rightness. Instead, we move with what presents itself to us in the moment, exploring and exploiting different branches and contingencies. We thus manage to turn feathers into flying material. The difference then is not in some initial creative power of the brain, but in how we look at the world and the fluidity with which we can reframe what we see. Creativity and adaptability are inseparable.
Mastery by Robert Greene