Creativity and the hive mind
One of the great challenges to creativity is the Internet as a portal to seemingly unlimited information. Entering that portal turns many of us into yak shavers. We finish with one yak, then another comes along, and another and at the end of the day, the floor is covered with pretty much an indistinguishable amount of yak hair which we’ve done nothing to weave into the next magical garment of the mind. Piles and piles of that hair build day after day until we no longer remember why we came to shave the yak or what in God’s name we will ever do with all the hair we’ve found.
We are not alone.
We enter the Internet as an individual but once inside we become part of a hive. Yes, the metaphors (hive and yak shaving are mixed) are jumbled but so is pretty much everything else inside the hive. Creativity is not a collective venture; that is the place of mash ups and remixing. Nothing wrong with that activity. It is the honey that hives produce and consume. And it can go viral so all of us are drinking from the same cup.
Being alone, disconnected with the hive mind is where creativity dwells. Stay away too long and you find yourself fit only for life inside the hive. There lies our existential danger. Yak shave long enough and you will ultimately get lost in the process and never find your way out.
I’ve written over 20 books. In the future, will we produce writers who have retained the ability for sustained creativity outside of the hive experience? Of course there will always be the rebel who takes a different path. But for the rest of us; the community of readers who also unplug from the hive each time they open a book, will they fade away like an evolutionary dead end experiment? It is no good being a rebel if there is no one left to notice.
What has inspired this walk around the hive is an interview with Bill Wasik.
And how did I stumble across this interview? Yak shaving. Buzzing around endlessly in the hive.
Salon has an interesting interview with Bill Wasik who has a new book titled: And Then There’s This: How Short Stories Die in Viral Culture.
“I would say that if there's one thing that's causing the novels of the world from getting written right now, it's surfing the Internet. I do think that a lot of creative people want to be working on their craft, they want to be thinking big about what they should be doing and my belief is that the culture is encouraging them to think small. To me, the challenge is to try to find ways to partially unplug ourselves. To carve out spaces in our lives away from information. Away from the sort of constant buzzing of the hive mind. I think some of these constraints can just be arbitrary. Tuesdays, I'm not going to look at the Internet. I think that can often be effective. Another way of working on it is to develop more effective filters of information. Instead of just freely clicking around from site to site to site, and before you know it, you've spent four hours following your whimsy every which way, instead pick out a few sources of information that you feel like are not just crucial and well-done, but also fairly broad based and representative. To me, the most important step is recognizing that you can't possibly take in all the information that's out there. [You need to] make a wise intervention into your information consumption and try to make it manageable so that you can live a happy life and save time for the thinking of higher things.”