I was reminded last week of the daily challenge – and importance – of being able to exist comfortably with the grey.
Life, like writing, is rarely black and white (figuratively speaking of course). There is only so much that we can control, predict or be sure about. Especially when people are involved.
To thrive, we have to be flexible, responsive and creative. But is it possible to be a rational thinker and also rely on intuition? I think it is, as long as you recognise these as two distinct and worthwhile processes. And I rely heavily on both when working with my clients.
This is the usual starting point for a project. Delivered in writing or verbally, it offers a handy road map. This is the black and white part. This is where I source about half of the puzzle pieces.
After familiarising myself with the brief, I then let my intuition loose. This is when I search for the grey.
I am a big believer in this part of my skill as a writer and editor. But it is exceptionally difficult to quantify, explain and allow time for.
I try to ponder:
- What hasn’t been included?
- Why did they use that tone when referring to a particular project or person?
- Why is it so hard to find answers to this?
- What is being avoided?
- Who else is involved?
- What is the real reason for the project?
Typically, these (and more) questions arise throughout a project too. And it’s so important to accept that not all the answers will be available. Just asking yourself these questions can be a starting point for finding the grey puzzle pieces.
Ultimately, the more puzzle pieces I can find, the better the result.
Our beautiful brains
As Todd Sampson revealed in the first season of Redesign my Brain, allowing your brain to be creative, or use insight, takes practice. It’s important to allow time for both analytical thinking and insight.
In fact, these processes use quite distinct pathways in the brain. If we allow analytical thinking to run the show all the time (using the pre-frontal cortex), we’ll block all our insight (from the anterior temporal lobe) and limit our findings.
While it isn’t always easy to feel comfortable amongst uncertainty, finding a way to survive and embrace the grey may just help us forge new pathways.
By the way, if you enjoy reading about insight and intuition, I loved Malcolm Gladwell’s book titled Blink.