Sunday, June 27, 2010

Real Life Tao - Be Open to Possibilities

There are many different ways to define the concept "go with the flow." For me, one of these definitions is for us to be open to the possibilities that lay before us. Too often, we get an idea in our heads and, regardless of the situation or circumstances, we doggedly cling to our preconceived notions, even when those very circumstances dictate that we alter our course.

When I was far younger, I experienced this sort of problem in relation to my writing process. In school, we were taught to make detailed outlines of what we proposed to write.

First, we had to think of a topic. Next, a strong introduction was emphasized and then we needed to think of all the bullet points that the body of the composition would entail. At the end, we needed restate the introduction, briefly sum up the bullet points and then tie them all together with the final paragraph. When the writing -- several drafts, of course -- was completed, we then needed to pick a title that captured the essence of the exposition.

In outline form, this blog post might look like:
I. Introduction - Go with the Flow
II. Definitions
II. Example 1
a. Importance of example
b. Supporting evidence or theory
III. Example 2
a. Importance of example
b. Supporting evidence or theory
IV. Example 3
a. Importance of example
b. Supporting evidence or theory
V. Summation
VI. Conclusion
While this methodology may work for some people, I found early on that it interrupted the flow of my creative process. For the most part, when I utilized this method, my writing was very mechanistic and stilted. Not only did the thought not flow throughout, but new ideas or ways to express my main thesis were ignored IF they didn't fit my prefabricated outline.

And so, by the time I was 9 or 10, I decided the outline process was not for me. To satisfy my teachers, I would make out the outline AFTER I wrote whatever was written. Yes, I admit this was deceptive, but it allowed me to be open to possibilities, while not negatively impacting my grades!

These days, when I sit down to write an entry for this blog, the method I employ would curl the fingernails of most of my former teachers. I wait for a thesis to pop into me noggin and then I write the title (which serves as a sort of guide to the post). As the words flow out, I allow them to take any direction they choose and, in some cases, I have to rewrite title later on.

Another example I will offer concerns soup making. For the longest time, my wife and I simply couldn't cook together. We would each have a set idea of what the finished product should look and taste like and we would engage in ongoing sniping as to which ingredients should be added, the quantifies of said ingredients and which spices should be included. It wasn't uncommon at all for one of us to throw up our hands and say to the other in huff, "Do whatever you want!" and then walk off.

In time, however, we both independently realized how counterproductive this protocol was and so we now cook together quite frequently with delicious results! What changed is that neither of us now is married to our preconceived notions. We start off with a general idea and see where it takes us.

Last night I started with the idea of curried pumpkin soup. We discussed the various vegetables to add and settled on red potatoes, sweet potatoes, leek and a shallot. Besides curry powder, we slowly added (tasting along the way) sea salt, ginger, nutmeg, nutritional yeast and a little pepper.

As the soup came together, we both agreed it was missing something. I suggested grating in a small amount of smoked Gouda and my wife suggested adding a slice of crumbled Velveeta. Once these two ingredients were added to the mix, we both gave a big thumbs up to our joint creation!!

I will be the first to admit that cheese was not part of my original idea. If this had been in my days of yore, I would have dismissed its addition out of hand. My soup might have been tasty, but not as tasty as what we created last night. Our delicious result was due to the fact that both of us have come to understand that being open to possibilities opens more doors and leads to the kind of success that preconceived notions could never fathom.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.


  1. One should always leave all option open. The more options the better rate of success.
    Personal writings should come from the heart and soul. Not directions written on a chalk board.
    There is no right or wrong way. As long as it is written, it is correct.

    Whens dinner? :-) sounds yummy. I love curry anything.

  2. I don't feel so alone now. I so detest outlines, and count me in for dinner, too!

  3. Where are the two of you!?! The soup has been on the table for over 30 minutes. Now you're just gonna have to eat it cold. :-D

  4. Soup is one of my favorite metaphors.

    And speaking of killing creativity...PowerPoint!

  5. I'm part of the non-outline group, too! Wrote my book with only a loose collection of anecdotes that I organized into chapters, but each chapter came to life on its own, without a script.


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