That someone who could change your life—Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs/Joshua Wolf Shenk

Saturday, August 23, 2014

This weekend's New York Times Book Review fills me with desire. I imagine a lake house. I imagine time. I imagine a week with nothing but books and a notebook into which I might record my favorite lines.


That isn't here, or now. And so I find myself reading the first many chapters of the reviewed books instead, trying to narrow my choices for those days when I will have full reading time. In Joshua Wolf Shenk's Powers of Two, reviewed by Sarah Lewis, I find this bit of loveliness. I am, to be honest, a lone wolf much of the time—searching my limited brain for a next idea, having the conversation mostly in private, taking the long solo walk to breathe more substance in.

But there have been moments, projects, abbreviated eras when I've found myself in the midst of a heady collaboration. Someone who makes the small idea bigger or clearer than how it began.

Shenk captures the feeling of that here:

When the quickening comes. When the air between us feels less like a gap than a passage. When we don't know what to say because there is so much to say. Or, conversely, when we know just what to say because somehow, weirdly, all the billions of impulses around thought and language suddenly coalesce and find a direction home.

Sometimes you meet someone who could change your life. Sometimes you feel that possibility. The sense that, in the presence of this celestial body, you fall into a new orbit; that the ground beneath you is more like a trampoline; that you may be able—with this new person—to create things more beautiful and useful, more fantastic and more real, than you ever could before.

How does this happen? What conditions of circumstance and temperament foster creative connection? In other words: Where and how does it begin? And which combinations of people make it most likely?


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