I’m thinking about how I think; I’m processing my process. For whatever reason I seem to be a weirdo who ends up thinking about things a bit too much – most of the time this is super inconvenient because it makes it difficult to communicate with people who aren’t me and aren’t related to me. Sometimes also it lets me make interesting things, perhaps finding an novel angle or perspective someone else might not find. Or maybe I have the cause and effect in reverse here: it could be that the act of creating interesting things has tweaked my brain away from the standards of human discourse and into weird and specialized pathways. Likely some combination of both.
Perhaps these approaches will be interesting to you. Perhaps not. I’m trying to spend a little bit more time understanding how other people approach problems and creative tasks, so perhaps you may be interested in learning my approach as well.
What do I do? I ask a lot of questions. From any one fact, you can start pulling at threads, start prodding at what has to be true as prerequisite to this being true and what must be true as consequence of this truth. From any one fact you can then unearth a network of facts, from any one question a cluster of further questions. This is helpful for the direct problem-solving stuff, figuring out what logistically needs to be lined up in order to make something work, but it’s also useful for philosophical exploration.
Really what I’m talking about is applying programming logic to situations more complex and nuanced than a program. I’m used to programming, so I always try to find the most general case. If there’s something that is common knowledge in one field, maybe it has more general applications – helpful metaphors are often born this way, such as when we take our knowledge of the way rot spreads through produce and helpfully inform people that one bad apple spoils the bunch. Unfortunately then people use the helpful phrase “one bad apple” to say oh it’s just one bad apple so it’s not a big problem, which is the exact opposite of the intended meaning of the phrase. It may be that we don’t have much call to skin cats any more, but there’s probably still more than one way to do that if we really want to, and probably more than one way to do most other things as well. Metaphorical aphorisms are usually just using a specific description of the best practice within a field that to describe a more general case. In, um, exactly the way that I just did by beginning this paragraph with an analogy to programming.
Of course, these metaphors are often bullshit. That is, what’s good for the goose may not actually, in practice, be good for the gander. So somewhere in this spectrum, from the specific application of an idea out to the most general application of the idea, there’s usually a point where it stops actually being useful and becomes extremely bad advice. Somewhere there’s a discontinuity. These breakdowns are also an interesting point to start exploring from, to trace out from the specific case to the general until we find where it breaks down, to then describe the consequences of using this concept, that has been accepted as generally good advice from a specific application, outside of the scope of its utility.
Sometimes something just feels wrong, or disproportionately satisfying, in ways that aren’t readily described, and these are interesting places to begin to explore as well. Why does this feel different than I’d expect it to? What does it say about the thing that it instigates these emotions? What does it say about me thant these emotions are instigated? Or, inversely, if others seem to be reacting unusually strongly to something, what does that signify? What sort of unfed hungers are indicated when something becomes explosively popular, what kind of unspoken rage when something becomes a locus of incandescent fury?
The through-line here is that we probe using emotion and intuition and then dig deeper using logic. Neither of these tools are honestly especially useful on their own – and most people who think they’re being purely logical are actually being guided and biased by emotions they fail to acknowledge, people who sell themselves as in tune with pure emotional truth are guided by logic that they pretend isn’t logic by avoiding giving it any concrete description. Everyone is guided by emotions and by logic, and the only way to navigate with any goddamn clarity is to acknowledge the presence of both and harness them, rather than to try to reject one or the other. The above approaches are really just frameworks for attempting that – likely your own personal creative and analytical approaches are as well.