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Daytalking (left, from Completely in the Dark), Nightwalking (courtesy of ShinyRobot), and Stargazing (again, CITD).

Creativity Is Not an Act — It’s an Accumulation

Accumulation. Aggregation.

What are these things?

A collector knows them well. A collector thinks: “What do I have? What am I missing? What would complete my collection?”

I gravitate toward montage artists, collectors, discriminating selectors.

Hoarders, wastrels, bone rag bucket dippers — buh bye. I have no time for that.

So lately I’ve gone full-on protection mode. Head down, waiting for the bark of creativity. I can’t act on it even if the alarm went off, so I have to stay attentive and ready. I rested — A LOT. It felt good to feel rested. I’m fine with that.

But there’s a point when resting becomes lethargy. And that’s not good.

So I reached out to people who might know something about being in the world and it turns out they’re all dead. Figures.

The first is Randy Pausch, who wrote The Last Lecture before he died in 2008. (Funny because that’s the year that nearly everyone I knew I my life died, too.)

The third was Epictetus, who wrote some Discourses and said this: “When anyone makes you angry, know that it is your own thought that has angered you.”

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Sydney J. Harris’ Winners and Losers (1973)

The third was Sydney J. Harris, who was a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. He wrote a book in the 1970s my late father kept on his bookshelf that, as a kid, I pulled down many times: Winners and Losers. Harris wrote this column, which seriously answers why my Medium pieces fall into the “under 50%” read category:

“A friend of mine, whom I have always considered a calm and stable personality, told me recently that he is regarded in some quarters as a wide-eyed radical, and in other circles as a stony conservative — when actually he is neither.

‘It’s an irresistible urge I have when I get together with extremists,’ he said. ‘I promptly swing over to the other extreme, just because I am so irritated with their one-sided view.’

I was delighted to learn that somebody else reacts that way, too. For years I have deplored my own tendency to do this. In most cases, it gives a false impression of my views — but when I am confronting an extremist, I became a passionate defender of the opposite view.

With ice-cold reactionaries, I sound like a rabid bolshevik; with professional liberals, I take on the tone of fascist; with the ardent culture-vultures, I pretend to read nothing but comic books and lovelorn columns; with pugnacious lowbrows, I refer haughtily to the French symbolist poets and the ontological existentialism of Kierkegaard.

This, of course, is a senseless way to behave; it is over-reacting to a situation. But, in all fairness, there is something about extremism that breeds its own opposite.

The complacency of the bourgeoisie makes me yearn for the Bohemian life; the sloppiness of the Bohemians brings out my primness; loud-mouth patriots prompt me to take a stand for the French way of life; and moist-eyed lovers of all things European give me the urge to hop on a chair and begin waving Old Glory.

The danger of extremism is that it forces its opponents to adopt an equally extreme view — thus hurting its own cause more than it realizes. The Reign of Terror during the French Revolution was a natural historical result of the repressive monarchy; the Satanism of Stalin sprang out of the soil of Czarist cruelty.

No single way of living is exclusively right. Combination is all. Life is the art of mixing ingredients in tolerable proportions, so that all the varied needs of man are somehow satisfied, and no important hunger is neglected. This is what all extremists forget, with their too-simple slogans for the good life.”

Crazy talk these days, no? “Combination is all.”

Try to find a way to the other side. Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash.

But what is creativity but freely scraping through all that life has to offer?

It can’t be had in a simple act.

It’s a building upon which other buildings arise. It’s a mixture; a collection — an accumulation.

Writer, editor, and media maker. Blogs at Completely in the Dark ( and lives in Minneapolis, MN. I notice things.

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