A Train, a Mouse, and a Young WomanShare
A true story (and an imaginary one) about creativity (and train stations), a mouse (and alternate reality), and expecting the unexpected.
It started with a train…
I would like to tell you a story. It's not a magnificent piece of literature. It won't make its way into the New York Times Bestsellers list. Maybe it's not even that unique. It is also extremely short. No, really, I mean very very very short. It is so short that it might not qualify as a story at all. Still, I would like to share it with you because it can tell us something about a creative process. Not the creative process, as clearly there's more than one way to trigger creativity. But it can enlighten some aspects which I believe is common to many creative workflows.
So, it started with a train.
A Man Waiting for a Train
I don't find myself sitting in a train station waiting for a train so often. When I do, I usually spend this dead time reading. Unlike bus stations which are usually placed in the middle of a busy street, the train stations I use are more "sterile". The setup is very dull (most stations look the same), and fewer things happen around you. So a book provides me a great alternate-reality.
That day, however, I decided to do something different. I had about twenty minutes until the next train arrives, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to use my own creation for spending this time. So, I opened seempli and picked a random Seed.
Enters a Mouse
So, I open seempli's Get in Shape section to see what destiny holds for me (creatively), and this Seed jumps right at me:
Now, despite the fact that I am the one who came up with all of the Seeds in seempli, I find myself staring at the screen and thinking: "What the hell was I thinking? How can anyone work with that?"
At this point, I can refresh and pick another Seed, or I can give up entirely and open the book waiting for me patiently in my backpack. But I decide to play along by the rules. It should be challenging and surprising. That's the whole point of the game, isn't it? So, let's get into the expecting-the-unexpected mindset!
And so I try...
So I am sitting on a bench in an almost empty train station. There's a vending machine on the right. The railway in front of me. A huge clock is showing the time. There's no sign of Mickey, nor of his friends. Nothing. Ten minutes later I am about to give up. Clearly, you cannot be creative in this incredibly dull train station.
And then, the Universe aligns itself and the unexpected happens…
A Fashion Statement
… and a young woman sits down on the bench next to me. Ok, that's not the unexpected part - it is a public train station after all. But this specific woman, at this very specific time - exactly ten minutes after I started to mindfully look for something that I can associate with Mickey and Friends - is wearing tights with a giant Mickey Mouse figure drawn on each leg.
I can only imagine how I looked to bystanders at that moment: a man sitting on a bench, staring amazingly at a person sitting next to him, and smiling with no apparent reason. It took me few seconds to snap out of it and keep smiling mentally.
At the same time I was concerned: this is an amazing finding! I have to record it. This is also part of the game: capturing Insights triggered by the Seed. But I have a strict rule regarding photographing random people in public places, and somehow asking this woman for permission to take her picture because she is wearing Mickey Mouse tights didn't seem like a good idea.
And so the smile was soon replaced with frustration. I can't let this chance slip by me.
A Story Within a Story
I had great raw material. Now, I had to do something with it! I opened seempli again and picked one of the Creative Writing Prisms.
The moment I've picked this Prism, reality changed. I was no longer in a train station. Instead, I was in a room. The young woman stood in front of a mirror. I could read her mind. I've created an alternate reality.
I've opened my notepad and started writing....
She stood in front of the mirror staring at her reflection. Something was not right. Everything was too complicated. She missed the simpler times. No, the plain simple times. She wanted to feel like a child again. She put on her Mickey Mouse tights and rushed to catch the train.
A True Story
All of the above happened as described (minus the Universe aligning part, which I don't have any supporting evidence for). I started with what seemed to be a dull setup, with nothing around to ignite a creative process. I ended up with a (very) short story that made me smile and think, and reflect (even about myself).
It's not a Pulitzer material; it might not be that original. I probably poured into these fifty words so many references from movies or books I've seen and read which I am not really aware of. But I did feel I've created something - small as it is. It might be a beginning… or an ending… or it might trigger something entirely different tomorrow. But something happened, and that's the point. This is the spark we are all trying to ignite with the hope that it will evolve and continue to grow.
Creativity can "happen" anywhere and at any time, but this doesn't mean we should be passive. We need to proactively rewire our senses and our mind to see this "alternate reality". We should absorb as much as possible from our surroundings. We have to expect the unexpected, or better still, we need to invite the unexpected. And we need to keep our eyes open so we won't miss it when it comes.
Being creative means never stop playing. It means to actively make the world our playground. And then, the magic happens.
Lidor’s visual artworks, which are focused on the things hundreds and thousands of people pass by in the street every day, led him to create seempli to inspire people to practice creative observation on a daily basis.
Using seempli Lidor works with individuals, teams, and organizations seeking to develop and enhance their creativity.