The Truth Of The World

This month’s issue includes a conversation I had with Dr. Shelley Carson, a Harvard professor who lectures on creativity. My favorite part of Carson’s book, The Creative Brain, deals with the difference between what she calls convergent thinking and divergent thinking. In short, convergent thinking is the process by which someone gathers all they know to reach one correct conclusion to a problem; divergent thinking looks at a problem and sees a multitude of solutions, each with its own unique strength and weakness. She gives a great example of a word question from the SATs. Being the SATs, there is only one right answer, but a very divergent thinker saw how several of the answers could be right depending on your point of view. People drawn to creative fields – like fiction writing – are always divergent thinkers. I certainly am. But I also like to be right – or, I should I say, I don’t like to be wrong. At some point, however, I think one needs to make a choice: do I want to look for right answers, or the answers that are right for me?

I settled eventually on the latter, but the mathematical, puzzley world of quantifiably right answers had its appeal. Let’s take the mystery out of this and just know already. Yet as soon as you type “Chapter One,” you have entered the land of the deeply divergent. Anything at all can happen in a book. Do you want your Victorian heroine to be abducted by space pirates? Go ahead. You must check all right and wrong at the door to your workroom.

Except you don’t. You simply discover a new meaning for right and wrong. The world outside our workroom is filled with rights and wrongs, rights and wrongs we do our level best to remember and adhere to. But within the sovereign space of the workroom, the truth of the world reveals itself: all is possible. It is as we have always wished to it be, for only within that dizzying divergence are you allowed the necessary breadth to find the answers that are right for you.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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