Scribbling towards success!
Why the pen is mightier!
Thomas Edison's 4th Secret Million Dollar Invention Strategy
Thomas Edison's Top Ten Invention
6. Why the pen is mightier!
It's estimated that only about 1% of the population ever bother to write down their thoughts and feelings in order to reflect on their lives and
express their ideas. Interestingly enough, all geniuses tend to fall into that 1% who do keep journals, record books and diaries. Aha! You don't
need to be Sherlock Holmes to recognise this key to developing your own genius. People who write out their thoughts get smart. Few people could
ever come close to matching the vast "literary" output of Mr Thomas Alva Edsion, inventor-at-large!
For a long time very little was known about Thomas Edison. Then, in 1978, a group of historians from Rutgers University got together to form
the Edison Papers Project. Their aim was to compile, edit and publish Thomas Edison's writings. Little did they realise what the they were
letting themselves in for. The custodians of his record books have so far discovered in the region of 3500 detailed note books and approximately
four million pages that the indefatiguable Edison pourred his thoughts upon throughout his working years! And they are still counting!
The notebooks give a wonderful insight into the processes Edison used to be so prolific as an inventor. The researchers liken his abundance of
ideas and observations to those of the man voted "the Genius of the Millenium" - Leonardo da Vinci. That's high praise indeed. The pragmatic
might argue that Edison was the greater for using his genius to be so usefully productive. However, a glance through Edison's notebooks is like
dancing with a tornado ... his mind spins all over the place.
What is immediately apparent is that Edison's mind wandered through a vast spectrum of unrelated projects in an apparent free flow of
associations. This is a critical point to understand. The mind grows through the number of connections it can make. Genius finds relationships
between the most diverse things.
The Wild Mind of Genius
Between inventive spurts Edison's mind wandered quite wildly, as demonstrated by pages covered in six different
flamboyant styles of calligraphy. Sometimes he even noted down a poem. Here is an example that appeared in one of his notebooks
from the mid-1870s:
A yellow oasis in hell
A phrenological idol.
The somber dream of the grey-eyed Corsican
A Brain so small that an animalcule
went to view it with a compound microscope. . .
Okay, so he was no Wordsworth! The important point is he allowed himself the freedom to express his ideas and
thoughts on paper. Will you allow yourself the same freedom?
Frequently, one of Edison's inventions would spawn another in an unrelated field, which in turn would give rise to another in a different area
of interest. It's as though by pushing, experimenting and thinking in one direction, Edison simultaneously benefitted in all the other projects
that he was working on. This points to the concept of the holographic mind. Affect one part and you affect all the parts. Nothing is wasted.
So if you are not already keeping journals and notebooks ... get with the program!
Sketch, doodle, do cartoons, write to get out your ideas. Don't worry about your style of writing ... you really want to be scribbling away.
Your writing wants to be fast and loose, free flowing and experimental. In your book, you make up the rules.
This is what's known as Private Writing - and it really is. Although your documents could well end up being studied by
historians in some future generation, the real point of them is that they help you think today. This exercise is just for you - not for an
audience. So be relaxed about it and have fun. Amplifying your thinking by writing and scribbling is a sure way to increase the frequency of your
bursts of insight and creativity.
If you are looking for some guidelines though to get you started, author Mark Levy has set some out in his superb book "Accidental Genius
- Revolutionize Your Life Through The Art of Private Writing". He suggests that you:
i. Relax and write easy
Struggle and strain is often a block to your talent and creativity. You are not expected to
express yourself like a genius from the off. Relax. Chill. Be easy on yourself. Try changing gear so that you are working at 90% rather than
stretching for 110%.
ii. Write quickly and without pause
This is a classic antidote to writer's block. Just write as fast as you can without stopping and without editing your thought process too much.
If you need to, just write whatever comes into your head even if its complete gobbledegook. Write the same phrase over and over if you need to,
or babble stupidly, until your mind and your writing suddenly unfold down another avenue. Your mind thinks fast, writing fast let's it loose on
iii. Give yourself a time parameter
Set a timer for say 10 minutes. Write fast and continuously until that 10 minutes is
at end. Not only do you have a time limit in which your mind has to go to work and come up with ideas and solutions, you also have to fill that
amount of time with continuous writing of your thoughts. This is a great spur when you are feeling tired and often great ideas emerge under that
pressure of time.
iv. Write the same way you think
Thoughts are messy creatures. They come out in abbreviated sentences, spurts and random snatches. You are not writing for a presentation or for a
grammar prize. Let your words tumble out to mirror your private inner thinking. It may be meaningless to another person, but it will have meaning
v. Pursue your thought train
When you get a thought, agree with it and go along with it. When you have a theme, pursue the logic and direction of that theme, follow it along,
see where it takes you. Put meat on the bare bones of your thoughts. Build them up until they become a new life form.
vi. Redirect your thinking with a good question
When you get stuck or come to a stand still in your thinking use questions
to trigger new directions and new thought trains. Take up the "six honest serving men" called What, Why, When, How, Where and Who, and let your
questions revitalise your quest for inspiration. I had a dog called Charlie. As soon as I even moved to pick up a stick to throw for him, he
would race off in the direction that he knew I would throw it. Your creative mind is as willing, fun-loving and eager to please as a dog. Ask it
a question and it immediately hares off in the direction of the answer...
I'd like to add to that. Use imagery. The creative mind runs very much on imagery and symbology. Watch your
thoughts closely and get those symbols and pictures down on paper. They may be meaningless to you at first. But getting them onto paper
allows you to objectify them and ascribe meaning to them. That's the real beauty of recording your thoughts, you capture something quite
fleeting and ephemeral and "make it real" by putting it down on paper. Once it's out there, you can see it, you can refer back to it and
follow it at a later date and it may lead you out of the maze of challenges that you find yourself in.
Many of Thomas Edison's greatest ideas only emerged after he had made hundreds of drawings and cartoons. General Electric has a collection of
Edison's sketches and doodles that he made about the electric light bulb. Most of them are undecipherable. But each of them had meaning for
Edison and moved his thinking along closer and closer to the goal.
The pen is mightier than the sword when it comes to hacking your way out of a jungle of problems.
Next: Thomas Edison Secret 7: Serendipity and Synchronicity
p263 "Thinkertoys" by Michael Michalko
p59 "The Einstein Factor" by Win Wenger
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