Robert Krulwich (co-host of the Greatest Science Podcast Ever: RadioLab) writes in his NPR blog of a new book by Toby Lester on the life of Leonardo da Vinci. It never hurts to study the live’s of the great thinkers. All it takes is one good idea, one new habit, to change your life, incrementally, for the better. Here are a few things to think about.
- Always keep your notebook on your person. “Lester says Leonardo used to travel with a small notebook hanging from his belt, and “whenever something caught his eye,” he would make a note, or begin “sketching furiously.” “. One sure way to recognize a creative person is her ability to quickly record an idea.
- Occasionally confront a blank page with a pen. Sip a coffee, listen to some music, sit on a park bench. Just let your mind wander while your hand doodles. Words, phrases, lists, arrows, pictures. No rules. Just write.
- Ask experts. While poring through one of Leonardo’s notebooks, Lester found a to do list for a week or month in 1490. Check out Krulwich’s post for the complete list, but what struck me was how many items on the list involved finding a local expert and asking his advice and counsel on a thorny issue. This was Leonardo, mind you. You get better by seeking the help of folks more adept than you. Be humble; be polite; but ask.
- A little ADHD is good for you. You can’t come up with a new idea unless you make connections, and you can’t make connections unless you think broadly, skipping from subject to subject. When you are having trouble focusing, perhaps that’s a good time to take out your notebook, brew a cup of coffee, and scribble for a while. A restless mind is a good thing.
- But also be tenacious. You knew this was coming, didn’t you? We see in Leonardo’s notebooks things that might have been– unfinished sketches, helicopters, and scary-ass weapons. But Leonardo has also seen through to completion canonical works of art and architecture. Leonardo finished things. One of the great personal challenges for any scientist is balancing 4 and 5, free association and knuckling down.
Speaking of which, time to knuckle down on a manuscript…