Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Gift of No-Doubt.

There is a really interesting article in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell,  "The Gift of Doubt."

It talks about risk-taking and creativity as a combination that is a little counter-intuitive but really makes sense to me.

In both writing and in opening new business, I tend to think it will be "easy."  It is only after I get started that I realize what I've gotten myself into.  Then it's a matter of seeing it through.

The article is about the economist, Albert Hirschman, who makes the case that mistakes are often the root of creativity -- that it is when it doesn't go smoothly that we have to figure out ways to make it work, and that sometimes those solutions are better than the original goal.

People  "would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be."

"They are “apt to take on and plunge into new tasks because of the erroneously presumed absence of a challenge—because the task looks easier and more manageable than it will turn out to be.” (Albert Hirschman) This was the Hiding Hand principle—a play on Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. The entrepreneur takes risks but does not see himself as a risk-taker, because he operates under the useful delusion that what he’s attempting is not risky. Then, trapped in mid-mountain, people discover the truth—and, because it is too late to turn back, they’re forced to finish the job."

Sadly, I've somewhat lost these "useful delusions" because of experience.  I've opened five different businesses and closed three of them.  I've completely renovated the shop downtown twice, and done major changes dozens of times.

Every time they have proven harder, been more expensive and time-consuming than I expected.

I've thought lately of doing a new bookstore, but every time I come back to that hard-won knowledge of how difficult and risky it really would be -- and whenever a customer puts back a perfectly good book because it's retail priced that just reinforces my doubt.  I'm too old for that shit.

Frankly, I'm pretty sure that I might not have started writing again if I had realized how hard Nearly Human was going to be.  But by finishing that book, I arrived at methods to keep writing and now I'm perfectly happy with it.

Whenever I start a book I think it's going to be easy.  Whenever I finish I draft, I think I'm done.  Whenever I finish a rewrite, I think I'm done.  Each step of the way I convince myself that I can do it.
The article is called The Gift of Doubt -- but the more useful title is The Gift of No-Doubt.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So what do you make of Barnes and Noble's news today? That is, the disappointment of Nook. Seems they are losing money with it now. I remember you commenting on this as being a bad idea 3 years ago.