The birth of clouds

The Birth of clouds - article by Greg Alder

Have you witnessed the birth of clouds? I haven’t. They just seem to arrive fully formed. One moment the sky is clear. The next time you look, there are clouds in it, drifting in from the west, south, east or north. By the time the clouds have broached the horizon, they have assumed their shape and intent. Some arrive bright, fluffy and frivolous. Others brooding with malicious fury.

Maybe clouds are like pelicans. There are about a hundred of them on the shallow broadwater near here. Once a year they take off for a lake somewhere inland. They apparently go there to breed. When they return their babies are fully grown.

Maybe there’s an unseen sacred place where clouds are born.

Maybe ideas are like that too. Ask a writer or artist or musician or scientist where she got her outrageously original idea and she’ll likely say that she doesn’t know.

One moment the idea wasn’t there and then it was. It arrived fully, or substantially, formed. Complete and neat.

This infuriates many people. They want to know the secret to creativity, but the creative person can’t help them.

Why is that?

Simple. Creative people are so practiced at creative thinking that they do it subconsciously. They make connections between two seemingly unrelated objects to create a new thought, but do it without even being aware of what inspired their idea.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn to think creatively. We can. We can learn how to trigger original ideas by mastering creative thinking techniques.

With time, we’ll become so skilled at creative thinking that we’ll do it subconsciously. Ideas will arrive from that unseen sacred place in our brains. When somebody asks us where we got our idea, we won’t know.

I read this phrase, the birth of clouds, in a novel I just finished reading. John Brandon’s A Million Heavens is populated with fascinating characters – a prodigy in a coma, a drifter waiting for signs of extraterrestrial life, a wolf with a conscience.

If I were to ask John Brandon where he got the ideas for his novel, he’d probably say that he doesn’t know.

Did he too look at a cloud and wonder where it was born?

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