Creativity, dreams and boredom
Perspectives from Asimov, Kekulé and Kierkegaard
How do people get new ideas? A 1959 Essay by Isaac Asimov on Creativity
Isaac Asimov on how new ideas are born, the creative person, cerebration sessions (a term he coined) and what kind of facilitation might be needed. Written 62 years ago, it makes very valid and intuitive points.
‘My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it (the famous example of Kekulé* working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known).
The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.
*August Kekulé’s dream and how he discovered benzene
Of all the cases cited by psychiatrists, psychologists and historians of science to illuminate the role of symbolism in creative thought, none is more famous than August Kekulé's somnolent vision of a snake biting its tail**, a dream that supposedly revealed the true structure of the benzene ring to the German chemist.
‘The more a person limits himself, the more resourceful he becomes.’
A very interesting read on Brain Pickings about boredom, idleness and how limitations fuel creativity and resourcefulness, all from the perspective of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.
‘Adam was bored because he was alone; therefore Eve was created. Since that moment, boredom entered the world and grew in quantity in exact proportion to the growth of population. Adam was bored alone; then Adam and Eve were bored together; then Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were bored en famille. After that, the population of the world increased and the nations were bored en masse.’
**Since I mention Kekulé’s dream and one thing leads to another, here’s a bit of info about the ouroboros, an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. The ouroboros is often interpreted as a symbol for eternal cyclic renewal or a cycle of life, death, and rebirth.