Productivity, Skills

Auto-tuning Your Mind (Not feat. T-pain)

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly blown away when I watch TV shows like The Office or more recently Stranger Things. At the end of the episode I think ‘wow, how do writers come up with this stuff? It’s so creative! I could never do that.’

The list goes on: stand-up comedians, fashion designers, researchers, rappers; these people always seem to have some amazing ability to come up with stuff that I could never dream of producing. They’ve got the gift.

Or do they?

I’ve dabbled in and out of various creative hobbies and activities in my lifetime. I’ve drawn comics for the University paper, I learned to play drums and got pretty good at speaking German. I’ve somehow even managed to stick to writing this very blog. I distinctly remember my first few months after starting this site. I had published 8 or 9 posts. I thought, ‘well, there goes all my ideas, what else can I write about?’

It felt like I was approaching the beginning of the end for this particular writing hobby. But to my surprise, the ideas kept flowing. And now 2+ years later and 100+ blog posts and counting (not to mention 30 half-completed drafts just waiting for a break in procrastination to finish) topics continue to pop in my head when I’m in line at the grocery store, waiting in traffic or eating breakfast.

It gave me the realization that you’re brain has this amazing auto-tune feature that’s existed long before ‘Buy U a Drank’ came out.

Once you start down a creative path with something like painting, writing a novel or building furniture, the brain seems to jump on that particular wavelength, and soon the neurons start subconsciously working through that task and generating new art-pieces, storylines or ways to use your skill-saw.

I remember it was the same when I was drawing comics: little quirks and events I would experience on a daily basis would automatically start to form 3 or 4 panel strips in my head with a punchline at the end. Learning drums I would hear new beat ideas while listening to the radio. And learning German, my mind would translate random objects or pick out people speaking German as I walked by.

I’ve also started to take it as a big thumbs up from my brain.

If it fires up this auto-tune feature, its like a confirmation that I must be enjoying that activity at a somewhat deep level. It’s a nice check to receive, because sometimes we stick with sports or hobbies that we don’t actually like, but we persist because we’ve bought the equipment or committed to a team, or we really want to like it but your head tells you otherwise.

So while I haven’t written an episode of Friends or the 8th Harry Potter novel, I can see how, if you got in to the rhythm of it, that the ideas would start to pour in. Harry, Hermione and Ron probably never left J.K. Rowling’s head. I bet you she’d be getting ready for bed, and just by seeing her toothbrush it struck an idea for a magical cleaning wand.

I suppose the message I’m trying to get across is that it’s not necessarily true that some people were just ‘born with it’ and you weren’t. Of course to some degree, certain folks have a natural ability, but from what I can see it’s mostly just a blend of dedicated, directional focus, consistency and some hard work.

So when you think ‘I could never host a TV show’ or ‘manage a popular Youtube channel’ or ‘start a successful clothing line,’ remember that all those people who do those things are regular folks that simply stuck with it and got their brains thinking in that way.

So to close, in the immortal words of T-Pain: “I know the club close at 3, what’s the chance of you rolling with me? Back to the crib, show you how I live, let’s get drunk forget what we did.”

It turns out I couldn’t find any inspirational T-Pain lyrics, so that will have to do for now.

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