In order for you to be creative, you need to escape grilled cheese thinking.
Before I explain what that is, let me set the stage first.
I used to work for a software company as a web programmer. I had learned web technology to put some of my cartoons online and that led me into the lucrative corporate world for a long while.
While learning to program, one of the first analogies I came across for programming said it was that it like baking a cake. They both need to follow a clear step by step process to achieve their objective.
I didn't bake so I substituted making a grilled cheese sandwich in my head for this metaphor.
To achieve your goal, in this case making a grilled cheese sandwich, you need to break it down into a logical pragmatic process. This is in essence what programming is about.
So the sandwich as a program might start to look like this.
A real program would be even more complex than this as it would have to have a list of supermarkets by proximity and price as well as their opening and closing hours among other thrilling variables.
This step by step style of thinking and doing is what I think of as grilled cheese thinking.
Grilled cheese thinking is a process of fully predictable and logical steps we take to get to a predetermined outcome.
We need grilled cheese thinking in everyday life but not so much in art. Creative thinking often strives for an unpredictable outcome.
This rigidly logical thinking is often the opposite of what creativity requires.
Grilled cheese thinking is essential in running your daily life. For instance, lots of people wake-up with the goal of getting to work.
They wake up at a predetermined time that leaves them time to, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and travel to work before a designated start time.
As a method, running your life in this way helps to keep it on track and achieving your established goals. It’s great for this kind of thing.
If we were to imagine this morning routine as a story we wanted to write. It would be hard to hook any readers as it contains no unpredictable elements.
This story is no different from the millions of stories that begin every day in any big city. It would be a story that they’ve heard before and so there be little attraction to them in reading this story.
This story lacks creative energy because it lacks surprise. Creativity needs surprise. It’s about finding new answers to expected and unexpected questions.
Tell us the exact same story but this time let us see a dead body in the bathtub as the narrator brushes their teeth.
By the time they leave their house to travel to work, we the reader are suddenly very engaged in the story.
We now have questions. Lots of questions and creative intent thrives on questions.
Grilled cheese thinking in real life is often about knowing the answers without asking the questions.
Let’s get back to talking about what it takes to make an actual grilled cheese sandwich
I’ll put a slice of cheese in between two slices of buttered bread and heat it in a pan. Flipping it over at one point. Removing when the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted.
We don’t need to ask any questions because we know all the answers to this common goal.
To make this or anything a more creative act, we need to start asking questions. We need to find the wrong ways to make a grilled cheese sandwich and maybe out of these attempts something new and valuable will come to life.
Look at one piece of a picture at a time and forget you know the answers. Start asking questions. Here’s a few questions just looking at one component
Asking questions and coming up with unexpected answers make it more thrilling because we now are in a place to produce unpredictable results.
We have moved away from a rigid process that delivers a pre-determined outcome to a place of joyous surprise.
Now, this is not to say that every change will be great. Asking questions simply affords us the chance to make something great and engaging.
Forget what you know and move away from apparent truths. Question the answers that you think you already know.
Maybe you don’t need butter, a frying pan, or even a stove.
Maybe we can invert the whole thing and use a cheese you can fry on the outside with a slice of toast on the inside between the two pieces of fried cheese.
Or maybe we don’t even have to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Maybe we can just talk about it and use it as a metaphor to open up new ways for us to create things. The possibilities are always larger than what we imagine
So start asking questions and discover your own way of looking at this world. Have a grilled cheese sandwich after as your reward.
You need to surprise yourself. To do that you have to forget the old answers and come up with some new questions.
Start by asking questions and see where it takes you.