We encounter most creative endeavors when they are complete. It seems to be the default to imagine that they were conceived exactly as we see them but as an idea rather than a thing. For some reason people seem to think that thinking is how you get things done. You have an idea; you think about it and then you execute it. All the choices were made in the thinking. Thinking is the most important thing. Thinking is equivalent to intelligence. Thinking is the master.
But really, it’s nothing like this at all. Thinking is at best a tool in the hands of a mysterious master whose methods are almost magical.
To be clear, I do not believe in magic. I use the term in a poetic way. Magic conveys an ability to get results from a process that is not articulable. At least not at the beginning. Once it’s all done you can articulate or recite what happened, but you can’t make up that list in your head before you’ve started. You can try but it won’t work. Or it won’t work as anticipated. Something will go wrong. Wrong is too negative, something will just go different. And how the person or team responds to that is likely to be more influential on the outcome than the original vision.
Perhaps I think about this so often because I am a documentary editor. I am given something and told to make sense of it. It’s like doing a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle with no cover art to reference. It could seem that my profession flavors my other art, but I think, it’s the opposite, I came to it because I have an innate editing sensibility. I like to respond more than I like to construct. That’s what the face making is all about. I see something and respond to it. I have not made a single face that originated in my head first.
My abstracts are similar. I put a few marks on the page and everything else flows out of the choice. I usually try to make that choice as surprising to myself as possible so that I will be forced to really respond and not do an action that I have done before. I like art to be an adventure.
Some things, however, necessitate planning and careful execution, like building a house. What I am talking about doesn’t come into play during the construction of the building, planks do need to be measured and cut precisely. But what about the initial imagining of the house? You don’t measure your way into something novel, something never before seen, something special, precious, unique and surprising. You don’t tell your brain to just think it up. You have an impulse that you follow, like tracking an animal through the forest. You read the signs, you grow excited, you feel tense, you wonder if what you are hearing and sensing is real. Are you on a path or are you making a path with your constant trampling back and forth?
My brother texted me recently about a dream he had. He told me about it because he couldn’t believe his unconscious brain could author such a sophisticated story.
That’s not thinking but it is intelligence. It’s not consciously directed but it is available.