Trained to Wear Seatbelts
We are all taught to color within the lines. Follow the rules. Wear the seatbelt. Shouldn’t there come a time when we don’t?
This morning, I ran a few errands–the larder is low, so I grabbed (the rare) fast food for breakfast, stopped by the corner store for a Gatorade, and wended my way home. The corner store is, literally, three blocks from my house on a side street that doesn’t get much traffic. I did a rare thing and did not put my seatbelt for this last bit of the ride. I reflected upon how strange it felt not wearing a seatbelt, though I spent many of my years not wearing a seatbelt because it wasn’t the law, and I finally concluded everyone is being trained to wear seatbelts. How not wearing my seatbelt feels strange somehow, and decided that would be today’s topic for discussion.
You might find it strange that I’d suggest deviating from convention in your work. I’m organized. I follow form and structure. I wear the seatbelt. It’s part of the process. And a wise man knows when to take it off. When you want to get down and dirty with your imagination, you should let your mind wander freely–there is time enough for structure later. Explore the themes and the textures and the sounds and flavors of your world, your setting, your story, your whatever. Don’t be bound by mechanics. That comes later. At this stage, it’s like you’re on the car lot. You see all the different rides with different seatbelts and are exploring the colors and shapes of them, digging into their essence, deciding which one best fits you. When you hope in for the test drive, the seatbelt is the mechanics, they are there to comfort you and hold you in place, but they won’t protect you from everything, you still have to be able to steer, or you’ll wrap yourself around a pole and, who knows, maybe the seatbelt will pop your head off. Not a good way to go. Not by a long shot.
Don’t be afraid to take off the metaphorical seatbelt and see what you can do differently. Innovation requires you to draw outside the lines. Challenge existing conceits. Learn from failure. Push the boundaries. Every innovator knows its important to be fearless, not foolish. Even when you’re operating in a boundless vista, you must take care to watch your step, because you can drown in the nothingness or go blind in the abyss. Stray not too long into the wilderness of free thought. Come back to earth. Get in the car. Write sentences with structure. We are hopelessly optimistic creatures born from the gyrations of chaos who ever cling to the hope of order in our lives despite the constant descent into entropy we make each and every day. Get in the car. Put on your seatbelt. It doesn’t mean you can’t drive fast or have fun along the way!
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!