By Augustine Cerf
Man, I’m Literally So Inspired
Yesterday Marc taught us a creative technique that his own mentor had shared with him at a (hardly imaginable) time when he too was a young bright thing. He suggested that we hold our breath when pouring out ideas and doing applied divergent thinking. Fighting through the pain is crucial to having ideas, to never limply pause on the first idea, comfortable and satisfied. To always push on, push through, push further. To, like Hegarty, hang up your best idea on the wall and then beat it. And then to beat it again. I found that holding your breath physicalises the fighting through the pain, replicates corporeally the hunger and the urge to keep on going in the immediate. You feel the struggle in your lungs. Just before you gasp for air, the moment of inspiration strikes. This is not a rule of thumb of course; inspiration is a devilishly evasive thing that resists being pinned down through formula, but it’s a nice way to keep on trying to get at it. And then to try again.
What I found most striking about this little nugget of wisdom or technique is that inspiration literally means to breathe in. What Marc suggested was that at the moment of literally inspiring air, you release ‘inspiration’. And that made me think of a new creative technique: literalizing. Something interesting happens when you take metaphorical idea, some that you often take for granted, and literalize them. There is a metaphor encoded in the very word ‘inspiration’. At SCA we are constantly searching for inspiration, yet we never stop to think what it literally means – to take in breath. Had we done this, we might have discovered Marc’s trick ourselves. Insights might be discovered through really looking at words and scrutinizing language to see what we are actually (literally) saying. We speak in metaphors everyday. We think of life as a journey and behave accordingly; we imagine ourselves overcoming ‘obstacles’, selecting different ‘paths’, aiming for a final ‘destination’. We think of an argument as war and behave accordingly; we ‘attack’ the weak point in other people’s arguments, we see criticisms as ‘right on target’, we ‘win’ arguments. Metaphors are everywhere, sometimes even in briefs. Take your product or your proposition and start to literalize – you might get somewhere. Hold your breath whilst you do it.