Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mid-Week Myth-Busting

Inspiration comes upon us in a flash. Ideas strike us, light bulbs blink and wink when things fall into place. There’s a certain poetry to the speed with which our intellect and intuition are supposed to work. It’s exciting to think of the mind operating in terms of powerful, lightning quick neural connections.  

And yet, when we’re speaking in terms of flexing our intellectual muscles, we fail to acknowledge the fact that it is persistence – slow, steady, patient and plodding –   that does most of the heavy lifting.

Untangling mental knots, teasing pieces of a puzzle apart, and then together, thinking, re-thinking, writing, re-writing, crafting, re-crafting, doing, un-doing, finding solutions and then improving upon them - all of this takes work. But in our eagerness to be inspired, in our desire to wait for that one, golden moment, we tend to forget that it is equally important to be enthused and to get started.

Persistence is deeply unfashionable. It indicates that one is committed to actually doing things, and what could be less suited to a careful cultivation of world-weariness than that? Persistence is bourgeoisie, athletic rather than aesthetic, and I doubt very much whether it has ever been at the heart of the zeitgeist, anywhere. Except perhaps in times of war and strife.

But if creativity is a process, and intelligence is a journey, we’d do well to embrace persistence in all its ungainliness, in its insinuations of considerable, almost corporeal effort. Even the Greeks among the Romans would have to agree that there’s no going anywhere without first getting there.

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