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The Tinkered Mind
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July 30th, 2020
Often the question comes in: how do you write so much? Tinkered Thinking has put out a podcast episode and the corresponding written transcript everyday for the last 837 days. (And most that has been on time.). The word count is nearing 600,000. That’s a fair number of words, certainly a few more than what the average person has written. So where does it all come from?
Imagine you are taking a creative writing course and the assignment is to think of a title that you can imagine seeing on a bestseller list. It’s pretty fun exercise. If you look at a few best seller lists you can notice trends quite quickly, in tone, phrasing, the number of words used as relative to the subject, a whole bunch of things start seeming obvious. Try it out. Write down a few titles that you could imagine thinking: I’d read that book, or at the very least scoff at the fact that it’s on the best seller list. Of course it’s a best seller with a name like that!
Hearing about such an exercise as recounted by someone who took that creative writing course spurred the core idea of Tinkered Thinking. A few titles came to mind, and one seemed particularly good in terms of how catchy it is, how flamboyant it is and how there exists a delightful turn of wit and logic beneath the bombasity of that title. This came to mind before the story about the creative writing course was finished.
Apparently the assignment for the succeeding day in that creative writing course was: ok, pick the best title and now write that book. Ballsy move on the part of a writing instructor, but exactly the sort of mentality and challenge that every aspiring writer should be faced with.
Without going into too much of the backstory, this title became the core ponderance of Tinkered Thinking, but the strategy goes a little further than just trying to write a book. Indeed the size of Tinkered Thinking would now fill a couple heavy books. So how does it keep going?
Imagine that this core idea, this topic is at the centre of a circle. Imagine this idea is like an object, say a sculpture of incredible beauty. Now unlike a painting which you simply look at, what do we do when we see a beautiful sculpture in a gallery or a museum? There’s a reason why they are usually situated in the middle of the room. We walk around them. If you think about it, a painting usually only has one intended perspective: looking at it straight on. But a sculpture teases you to look at it from all sorts of angles. Each time you move on the circle that surrounds a sculpture, you get a different shape, a nuance of the overall piece. There are arguably infinite points on this circle that you can move to in order to get a slightly different perspective. And then of course, you can move in closer and look at the sculpture in detail, or you can back away farther to take in the whole thing. Then you could get a ladder and place it in any of the spots you’ve already stood and then look at the sculpture from a higher angle. Indeed, there exists a sphere of infinite points from which you could take in the sculpture. Now replace that sculpture with the original concept, the core idea. Perhaps it becomes clear how so much could be written about one topic. All you have to do is tweak your own perspective, and suddenly the same concept yields new fruit. We zoom in, we zoom out, we look at it sideways, we take a step to the side. Each time we see something new…
Each episode of Tinkered Thinking is like a point of a sphere that surrounds the core idea. Each episode is an attempt to see that core idea from a new angle, in a new light, with a different resolution and zoom.
And to be clear, the core idea is not “Tinkered Thinking”. It’s certainly related, but this attempts to strike a subtle balance between being a synonym and describing the process of how to address that core concept.
Naturally, the core idea, the title to that imaginary book - the kernel from which all of Tinkered Thinking has grown will have to remain a mystery. Such a source of inspiration, like a prospector who has found a gold bedded river before a mountain, or a hunter who covets a particular ground, must be kept secret..