WHEN’S THE LAST TIME YOU DID SOMETHING FOR THE FIRST TIME?

I found this phrase on the first page of one of my work notepads, a few days ago. It comes to haunt me from time to time.

Novelty is a pretty powerful thing. The quality of being new is attention-grabbing, captivating, and dazzling; distracting, even. If you happen to be anything like me (very easily bored, very ambitious, and very, very curious) then you are constantly in search of it.

Incidentally, ‘novel’ does not equal ‘new’. When after years of inactivity and intense dust-collecting I picked up my trusty acoustic guitar again, it was hardly a new experience for me to be fiddling around with chords and strumming patters, but it was certainly novel – it had the quality of being new, without actually being new at all.

I find this technique works miracles in the creative process. Uninspired? Drop it. Forget it. Nope – don’t even think about looking at it. Go outside, get your hands dirty; talk to someone; pick up a book and just focus on absorbing new information – just take your mind someplace else with whatever activity floats your boat (I find colouring books to be an excellent zoning-out tool). You are eventually allowed to make your way back to your desk, but only once you’ve managed to shift your focus – then, when you do return, you’ll find that approaching your problem afresh, anew, will make one hell of a difference.

Uninspired? Drop it. Forget it. Nope – don’t even think about looking at it. When you do return, you’ll find that approaching your problem afresh, anew, will make one hell of a difference.

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In all fairness, the day I scribbled that phrase onto the first piece of paper I found I was not actually interpreting it as I did above. I really was referring to things that are entirely new. We tend to have fewer and fewer of those as we grow up (as the laws of probability dictate) and you might think that’s a little sad.

Well, here’s a challenge. My approach goes a little something like this. Try your hand at as many things as you possibly can. Don’t rest until you’re tried everything.

It’s true. That’s my drive.

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And there is always something new to do. Even starting a new TV series can be a godsend. A few weeks ago I started learning code; just last week I tweaked the very lines that make up this page and hey, it’s not broken (yet). I very recently also joined a little percussion group and am simultaneously learning not only their entire (albeit modest) repertoire but also a completely new kind of instrument (only to discover that my left arm is absolutely useless, but I’ll be damned if I don’t get the hang of it).

New, or novel. Find things that excite you – allow yourself to get excited about things. It’s a wonderful feeling. Try it.

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