Emerson post from SquareSpace

This is old material (July 2006) transferred over from my defunct SquareSpace blog. I wanted to warehouse the ideas:

I admit that I've made myself feel smug and more scholarly by reading the thoughts of great (and not so great) designers. In most cases, their words seem like well phrased common sense. There's fulfilling entertainment value, along with some words to use when I talk to people who don't intuitively understand– but as pencil hits paper when I begin to draw, the thoughts from the minds of great designers never seem to be much help.

Emerson wrote, "A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages... [snip]...Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another."

When I read that in Self Reliance, I thought, "well isn't that just what I've been thinking?" Smart man, Ralph.

The easy access of information on the internet coupled with the ease of entering discussions where making a paraphrase of a "found" thought can be a path to acclaim, speaking engagements, or best- being linked to... makes me realize that it isn't as important to find the thought, read the thought, and quote the thought in a scintillating context as it is to arrive at the thought through thinking on one's own. So I read a design blog and feel good. I feel better than good, I am sated. I don't have to think the thought or make the drawing which reflects my thought process. I'm a full man: but I realize that I've been "forced to take with shame [my] own opinion from another" though it doesn't seem to matter to others.

Read less. Think more. Draw more. Look more. See more. Grow the quality of what you do, and be open to the deep thoughts that happen in the background.

Penn State
April 18, Symposium 2009; reimagine.
New content. Symposium 2008.Digital Commons at Penn State. Improve the workplace; hire for variety.


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