I’ve spent a lot of time in ice rinks watching beer-league and kids hockey and one thing that has amazed me is how often players will shoot the puck into the goalie’s chest. We all know that the object of the game is to get the puck past the goalie, but for whatever reason, our shot is drawn to the goalie rather than to the net. It is as though the goalie secretly inserted a small metal bar in the puck before the game and is now wearing a strong magnet under his or her pads.
(American Hockey League; Toronto Marlies vs. Hamilton Bulldogs)
I’ve also decided that on a typical office trash can, the rim of the can generates a gravitational well. I say this because, no matter how often I throw a wad of paper into the can, from whatever angle or distance, I am more likely to hit the rim of the can than I am to sink the shot or miss completely. Something must bend space because if you look at the volume of the universe taken up by the rim and compare that to the rest of the frickin’ universe, it doesn’t make sense that I would hit the rim so often.
Of course, another explanation for both of these phenomena is that humans have an instinctive fetish for what we can see; that we are unconsciously drawn to the tangible to the detriment of the intangible.
The reason I wax on about this is because I believe what is true for trash cans and hockey games is also true for creativity.
After rehearsals for a sketch comedy show for which I write, I was drinking with some of the actors and one of them asked me how I came up the ideas for my sketches. How did I take a relatively mundane scenario and find just the right moment and way to skew it to elicit humour?
For me, I said, it’s about perspective and being able to ignore the hard edges of reality to see relationships no one else has bothered to see.
(Photo taken in Barbados)
Too many of us get hung up on what we see, what sits before us in all its light-reflecting, retina-stimulating glory. We see reality and get stuck on that being simply what is. Reality just is. There’s nothing else other than it.
Sitting across from her, I described the wide-eyed reality I saw.
In the foreground was sugar packets, salt and pepper shakers, the table, my beer glass, her beer glass. Slightly behind that was her, the barely restrained frenzy of her hair, her facial expression, the curve of her neck, shoulders and arms, her clothes. Behind her, a table of four animated people sharing a night out (won’t go into details) and behind them, a window onto a busy Toronto street; sidewalks, pedestrians, traffic, storefronts.
I then squinted my eyes and all those hard edges faded away to be replaced with a visual melange. I could not tell where my friend ended and the woman behind her started. Vague shapes of pedestrians blebbed out of her head, like animated thoughts or alter-egos escaping into the night.
(Photo of a fountain on Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition grounds)
My perspective had changed, so my reality had changed. I no longer saw a goalie blocking my shot or a trash can rim siphoning wads of paper from the vaster universe.
However it is accomplished, I think this is what separates open creatives from the rest of humanity, and by creatives, I mean not just artists (writers, painters, photographers, etc) but also entrepreneurs and technology innovators. They understand the lowercase nature of realities rather than Reality.
The altered perspectives are there for anyone to see—and everyone’s perspectives are going to be different—but it is the creatives who choose to look for them. We can see where the goalie isn’t and choose to shoot there.
(The Toronto Marlies beat the Hamilton Bulldogs at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre)