Jonah Lehrer has a great piece on why “creative geniuses” still have failures (Dylan’s Down in the Groove or Steve Jobs’s hockey-puck mouse). Quoting Nietzsche:
Artists have a vested interest in our believing in the flash of revelation, the so-called inspiration … shining down from heavens as a ray of grace. In reality, the imagination of the good artist or thinker produces continuously good, mediocre or bad things, but his judgment, trained and sharpened to a fine point, rejects, selects, connects…. All great artists and thinkers are great workers, indefatigable not only in inventing, but also in rejecting, sifting, transforming, ordering.
Being a creative genius is more than just having making things. You also need to have the ability to sort those things and sift through to separate the good from the bad. So that raises the question, how do you learn to separate those things? In short: take a break, step away, don’t let yourself get too close:
[W]e have no idea which ideas are worthwhile, at least at first. So the next time you invent something new, don’t immediately file a patent, or hit the “publish” button, or race to share the draft with your editor. Instead, take a few days off: Play a stupid videogame, or go for a long walk, or sleep on it. Unless you take a brief break, you won’t be able to accurately assess what you’ve done.
This past week, I’ve found myself involved in multiple conversations about keeping and organizing inspiration folders. I have a fairly elaborate, yet strangely simple system that I’ve been using for a few years that some people seem to be interested in. I think all designers keep a folder like this to some extent so thought it might be helpful to break down my system here for those that are interested.
This is a different kind of post than usually appears on the blog, but I think it fits into the overall arc I’ve established here as it can be a factor in doing your best creative work. And let’s face it, we’re all nerds here. We love peeking under the hood to see how something works and finding better taxonomies and systems. If posts about technology, organization, taxonomy, general nerdity aren’t your thing, you can stop right here. But, if you are into that sort of thing or are simply looking for a better way to organize your inspiration folder, then hop on in. It could be a long ride. Ready? Let’s go!