Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Randomness

Creative Technique Series

Randomness is a major technique of creativity. What does it mean to be random? According to a dictionary the definition would be “haphazard course”, “without definite aim, direction, rule or method”.

The word “random” is related to many other words -- chance, accidental, aimless, arbitrary, hit and miss, indiscriminate, casual, desultory, without plan, without deliberate intention, serendipitous, chaotic, disorder, indeterminate, reactive, improvisation, spontaneous and so on.

Further, random is related to words that describe certain behaviors -- bumble, stumble, blind, clueless, confused, jumbled, muddled, tangled, blank, unruly, rambling, errant, inconsistent, eclectic, contradictory etc.

Randomness is a concept that occupies a significant zone of reality, both objective and subjective reality, both your external and internal reality. This idea and related ideas appear again and again in the living of life.

Logic and fixed ideas
The basic idea of randomness is to operate without a plan, fixed idea, intent, deliberation etc. These are logical qualities, which are essential to analysis and reason, but are the death of creativity.

Because logic always knows where it is going, it is antithetical to randomness and serendipity. Creativity on the other hand does not where it is going. And this why creativity is creative, it has no idea of the future, if it knew what it was to encounter, then it would not be creative, it would deductive.

Creativity imagines, innovates, and discovers because it does not “know”. The logical mind always knows, for all is deduced from an original cause or idea. It thinks in threads that proceed from some original knowledge. Logic does not proceed into the unknown to know the unknown. It proceeds into the unknown with the intent of “unknowing”, that is, substituting a familiar idea for the unknown, discarding the unknown.

Logic does not want randomness, the new, the different or creativity.

Randomness takes the opposite track, and is used in many ways.

Randomness allows us to let things happen. We let ideas appear, we let accidental things inspire or give clues or even solve problems. We decide to solve a problem without intellectual force but by being easy. We decide to not have a timeline or deadline in our work and this gives us freedom to wander. Randomness allows us to remain “open”. We look for surprising juxtapositions. We have no expectations, we abandon preconceived categories. We look for solutions in the most unlikely events.

Logic and time
Randomness has a completely different view of time; its time is not fixed; it moves along at its own speed -- slow, fast, then slow again. Time is measured not by speed but by the content of a process. If you must go slow to gather information and deliberate, then so be it; if you must move fast because you are experiencing a leap and a cascade of ideas, then you sprint as fast as you can.

Logical time is not defined by the content of a process. Logical time stands outside of a process and measures it not by its inner necessities and goals. Logical time measures time by a clock which is based upon steady cycles of the sun which have nothing to do with your inconsistent creative cycles. Logical time insists upon a steady notion of duration. It defines work, product and success by this clock. Thus, logic assigns a definite duration to accomplish a task. It sets a deadline.

Logic further insists that in the work, you must work at an assigned speed. It decrees efficiency and it faults you for slacking and wandering from your immediate task.

Creative time is not concerned with the quantity of time; it focuses on the quality of time. Duration is irrelevant to a creative person focused on the prize -- on a new idea, a work of art, a performance, an invention, a discovery. Time is in fact eternal to the creative person; each moment is an eternal moment.

Within it the Genio creates, there is no sense of time passing, thus they get lost in time. A creative person only feels the passage of emotions and states, both negative and positive -- joy, weariness, depression, curiosity, faith, inspiration, beauty, frustration, realization, disappointment, surprise and elation.

More, the work itself takes the vast majority of your focus; there is little energy left for clock watching, if you are focused on a breakthrough.

The logical mind does not get lost, it always knows what time it is, and for that reason, it cannot create -- because to create you must get lost! The logical mind must always know where it is. It uses time, flow charts and chains of logical deduction. It wants to map the unknown even though it has not even arrived there yet!

Industrial model, agricultural/biological model, “magic” model
In many ways the logical model is an industrial model; on the other hand, the creative model is an agriculture model where seeds evolve on their own. One plants the seeds and cannot speed up their developmental process.

The difference, however, with the agricultural model is that true creativity does not know what seeds are being planted, while the farmer usually does know this by necessity. In the creative model, we plant many seeds, but we do not know what they will create and which of these we will find useful in our project. The element of the unpredictable makes the process a synthesis of agriculture/biology with magic.

Probability field
In addition, we are farming a “probability field”. We know that as a matter of statistics we will produce a few usable products. In this field is a probability of creative success but we cannot say if a specific planting will produce something important or not.

However, we know that as we develop our skills farming this probability field, then we are likely to increase our yield. Experience raises our yield over time as our intuition allows us choose better potential seeds and recognize superior fruit.

Internal and External Randomness
We have both internal and external randomness. Both forms of randomness are productive.

We have psychological events and thought events internally. These may provide creative material, creative solutions for us -- memories, thoughts, flashes of insight, emotions, subconscious messages. Unfortunately, education teaches us to ignore all of this psychological data.

The mind is very complicated; it is a Diverse of behaviors. The mind is highly mobile and erratic so it gives us a large inventory of elements. All psychological events can become material for creativity or lead indirectly to a creative leap. Keeping a personal diary of your inner world may be helpful in getting yourself to focus on these events.

One can learn to cull the chaos of inner data. You can key in on what might be interesting, might have potential, might be an important message. An emotion can lead to creativity. A random thought might lead to a leap. A juxtaposition of thoughts may be very intriguing. A signal from your subconscious might be very important. An old memory may set you going in a certain direction.

This culling is an art because, at first, you may ignore most of these messages as nonsense for they have nothing to do with the task at hand. We tend to let external issues, problems, simuli and threats drown out our inner activity.

External randomness is indeed another sphere of randomness. This includes conversation, encounters, work, recreation, shopping, internet, television, movies, news, books, strangers, accidents, travelling, observations of things, people, processes and much more.

You will be surprised how often an event from external randomness will solve a problem, fill in a gap, send you in fruitful direction or give you another angle.

The interplay of internal and external randomness is complex. An external event can produce inner events, and vice versa an inner event can attune you to outer events, so that you become sensitive to creative possibilities and signals given by the material world.

Internal and external randomness together will give you a large inventory of events to study. If you feel you are running out of external randomness, then make your daily environment more diverse. To increase your inner randomness simply pay more attention to your emotions, random thoughts, dreams and memories. The more you focus on them, the more they will grow.

It is important to let your mind wander where it wants, the logical realm wants to restrict all other mental departments, have you noticed that? It restricts emotion, creativity, memories, the subconscious -- so you must make an “etherial break”, that is, a break with the etheria of the logical mind, then your inner randomness will be freed. And it is important to take a stand against the tyranny of external stimuli. You are a human being you are also driven by inner perceptions, states and needs.

(Logic also tries to restrict wisdom, but that is another discussion...)

When we have gathered sufficient data and leads, we may close off our psychological and outer randomness. Then we focus on our creative techniques to work our catch into something.

Openness and Alertness and Flexibility
Mindsets and attitudes that go along with randomness include openness, alertness and flexibility.

Openness is the breaking down of walls between you and a random event so that you may see it and assess it.

Alertness is the ability to identify a possible good idea. Openness is the precondition for being in contact with new data; alertness is the skill of finding the significant piece of data for your creative project.

Flexibility is also a method of recognizing a good idea. If we are flexible, we can be bent into any shape. We will try anything within reason.

Suspension of preconception
Related to openness, alertness and flexibility is “suspension of preconception”.  To be fully open to ideas, we must suspend any dogma, category, prejudice and so on.

You can look at a lawnmower and not see a lawnmower, you can study a philosophy and see its interesting details but not pay attention to overall scholastic opinion on it, you can encounter a person but you do not slot this individual into some demographic or superficial category – you simply study this person’s behavior, you observe details.

When you suspend preconception you do not judge something or put it into a common category/ You see another function for something, you look at its parts and find things that are interesting and useful, you look at details instead of a tag or rubric, you find that a thing or idea or person offers you other meanings etc. (see article: Negation methods, Meditation and Creativity)

This behavior is very important for the operation of randomness. You will severely limit the range of your randomness if you approach an object, person, process or idea with fixed ideas as to what it is, what it means, what function it has, what parts and details it has, what it is going to become, what is good or bad about it.

Preconception is of course a very important tool in life, it keeps us out of danger and it enhances our efficiency and reduces lost time, but as far as creativity is concerned, preconception is a disaster.

Suspension of Paradigm
Related to the preconception problem is the problem of “paradigms”. We all have paradigms, and they, of course, are necessary in life, however, a paradigm like any preconceived idea blocks randomness and creativity. We are simply operating on a higher level of ideas with a paradigm and so we are tossing out even more data.

To break out of this mind block it might be useful to walk a mile in someone else’s paradigm, that is, try looking at the world from the view of another paradigm. You will learn new things. Then at a certain point you will want to mix paradigms.

And if you keep mixing in more paradigms, then you will come to a realization at a certain point that there is no absolute overall “truth” -- because each paradigm has some truth to it. When you get to this precipice you are ready to jump into Diverse thinking, because now you have jettisoned all particular paradigms, and now you are thinking in terms of many paradigms together. This means there is no overall super-paradigm really, except for the notion of diversity – and diversity becomes the new paradigm, though it is not actually a conventional paradigm at all. It’s a philosophy of a new type.

Next, you will be in a state where you no longer have certainty on any issue, except for the issue of uncertainty. There are many points of view; there are no longer any absolutes; you see many viewpoints are valid. You combine perspectives into whatever works for your project. The “practical” enters in as a guide to fit these perspectives together into your work.

Ending the domination of a paradigm and mixing paradigms will increase your creativity and randomness.

The concept of intuition keeps appearing in a discussion of randomness. With openness, alertness and flexibility, we need a skill that can assess what piece of data and which event is an important lead to follow. Intuition is this acumen.

Intuition is not really a logical thought, but it is not really an emotion either, it lies somewhere between, it is both. Intuition is not rational because it is a feeling, it has no factual or empirical or scientific basis. Intuition is not really a true feeling like love or fear or anger because it seems to have some informed basis for its appearance, it seems to be backed by experience and a kind of logic of its own, it competes with thought rather than with emotions.

Intuition is part of a category of behaviors that are between logic and illogic. In this grouping we have faith, improvisation, even premonition of a sort.

Intuition identifies for us likely paths to follow. Over time, our intuitive skill improves. Our intuition becomes keener. How? We develop an “informed” randomness. The logical side of our intuition gains bias. Educated guesses based upon prior experience and knowledge get better and better. Intuition which starts more in ignorance than in fact evolves to a kind of “experienced” ignorance and then to a higher kind of “unsure” intellect.

There are degrees of intuition. There is the “probable”, we feel strongly about this option. There is that “maybe’ middle zone feeling where you are not sure but sure enough to follow it up. Then there is the “long shot” which we do not have great confidence in but we are willing to take chance if necessary.

What is intuition? Why use it? When you do not know, you are on a path of discovery, thus you must try different things. Intuition serves this process. It is the subjective perception and feeling that exactly parallels the objective process of creative searching.

Pipeline, flash thinking, singularities
One form of randomness is related to flash thinking -- this is an internal process where our mind produces a flash of information, an idea, a solution. This behavior is based in our physiology, it is how are brains are wired.

Flash thinking produces “singularities”, these are simple creative elements such as an idea, a poetic line, a joke, an image, a musical phrase.

When we work on a problem we put material such as thoughts, data, experiences into the background, a portion of our brain labors on our inputs. We are putting something into a “pipeline”. The mind digests its project, then at some point it will provide a solution. If you are lucky the brain will take days, weeks or months.

Some issues may take years; other issues may not be resolved ever. On certain topics you may not be ready for a solution, you do not have enough experience or data, the issue may be beyond your knowledge and skill least at that time.

What is this pipeline process?
-you are either actually working on a problem in the background and it surfaces now and then
-or you have put it to sleep but events will awaken it, when a random clue may help you push the process to solution
-or your project has gone into a long-term sleep mode, and the material will languish in your subconscious for many years, and then surprisingly reappear one day.

The word “Subconscious” is used loosely here; it is a large word with many definitions. In this discussion, it is being said that a part of your neurology is working on a problem in the background, while in the foreground you are managing other tasks.

Creativity uses both subconscious and conscious behaviors. If you are writing a sentence that is intended to be both poetic and analytic it may take only a few seconds or a minute or so. You are not using your pipeline for this of course. However, if you are stumped then you might put the problem aside and see if your background mode can solve it for you.

The point about pipeline, flash thinking and singularities is that once we input the information into the subconscious we have to wait. We are constrained by the randomness of our brains. We cannot have a timeline. Creativity is not efficient; it is done when it is done.

We work in two creative modes you can say, one is subconscious and the other is conscious. But often the conscious mode falls short. We can only get so far, so we resort to waiting if we face a problem. However, there are other things that we can do...

Creative density and randomness
You can make the creative process more efficient if you learn the rules. Rely on your subconscious, put things into, let it do the work, do not force things.

One can constantly put things in the pipeline and you will generally be busy. The best thing might be to run multiple projects. As you are waiting for the development of ideas on one project, you can begin another. In this way you are not idle and your pipeline is always full without gaps. You simply juggle your projects.

Creative density is a measure of your creative work, the degree of your creativity.

Each individual will define a level of creative density that is comfortable for herself or himself. Multiple projects, keeping a pipeline full, balancing conscious and subconscious creativity are techniques to maximize creative density. And actually anything that increases your randomness and openness and alertness will also increase your creative density.

Enhancing your creative density is also related to developing an inventory of creative elements that you may use for future projects. Often, we create things that will be part of some future project, although we do know as of yet what this will be. We have a warehouse of parts. If you are dealing with words and ideas, then you must have techniques to store all this material so that it is readily available. Creative density leads to developing techniques of information storage, and it leads to personal memory techniques so one can organize data for easy use.

Randomness and improvisation
Randomness is related to improvisation of any sort. Some may write with preconceived sentences and paragraphs, but the more you write, the more you may enter into randomness.

In the case of a writer, one begins a sentence with a general idea of what to say, then as you construct it, you are randomly choosing words, these come into your head, sometimes you make a choice between one word or several. And the very choice of a word leads the sentence in a certain direction. Also, word juxtapositions appear that are interesting giving your idea an unforeseen twist.

In writing the next sentence, you select another idea, and then this leads to several other ideas that were not in your original plan. In this kind of writing improvisation, the piece is randomly composed. When you finish a draft and look at its structure it has wandered, you may like it; you may not. The piece might be pregnant with other articles; it might not be written in a logical sequence but this might yield something interesting. Jokes and small stories may appear. You might find that if you compose drafts in a more haphazard manner, you will get more creative ideas and more novel expressions.

Of course, this improvisation process would apply in a modified way to musicians, painters and others.

Random lifestyle -- Minor and the Major forms of randomness

Randomness is a necessity in creative work. Without it your imagination and flexibility will suffer. This would be a minor mode of randomness in your personal behavior. This is randomness in regards to your work, job, career, calling, hobby etc.

A second form of randomness is much larger. This is the randomness in lifestyle. In this case one’s randomness jumps the bounds of work to infiltrate many spheres of activity. This more comprehensive randomness will increase your creativity. We might be familiar with artists, writers and inventors who embrace this way of living. Their lifestyle randomness drives and accentuates their minor or career randomness.

This bigger randomness is a choice that one makes. Many are not able to enter fully into an existence that is haphazard for the most part. We have other obligations and needs or our personalities do not allow this break into completely unstructured territory.

And we should be aware that randomness has a downside, and if not mitigated it can have disastrous consequences in regards to job, finances, health, personal duties, relationships  and so on. So no fully random lifestyle is desirable or workable. Even someone who chooses to live randomly will have to manage this randomness or else.

Randomness and a whole
Randomness over time allows you to collect a lot of experience and information. In an accidental fashion you are gathering together a whole. Undirected, haphazard behavior is the other route to understanding a whole.

One path is self conscious, it says, “Now, I will explore a whole.” It proceeds from the self-aware paradigm of a whole. On the other hand, the random individual has no original intention of exploring a complexity or system or amalgam. The random person simply bumps into things in its serendipitous journey.

Over a period of time, an inventory of information is acquired. Then at some point, we have an inductive leap that sums up experiences and information and provides a thesis. A rational mind will begin to see “wholes”. All of the unrelated information now is cohesive and one.

The random traveler now sees connections, parts, unitary goals. General themes of the whole are induced.

So to some random behavior is a waste and unfocussed, but over a long enough duration one actually gains a lot of information. Because the random individual has no preconceptions or plan, she or he encounters many things.

And one wonders if the self-aware investigator of the whole is able to collect as much data as the random bumbler. Or whether, at least, the two mindsets should be interplayed – randomness and the goal of the whole working in tandem.

In another article on randomness there will be a discussion of more issues and also specific techniques.....

Cage Innoye
Axxiad News

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