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November 04, 2015 Wednesday 05:34:47 PM IST

Sustain the “heroism at the starting point” till the end of the race!

Creative Living

Is well begun half done?

The Nobel Laureate in Literature (1946), Hermann Hesse writes in his poem, “Stufen” (English: “Phase”):


“Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,


Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.”




“A magic dwells within each beginning


Protecting us it tells us how to live.”


The poet speaks about phases of life imbued with a multitude of creative possibilities. Initiated by their original impact, one shall pass over these phases with great mastery. A certain magical spell directs those creative drives within, towards rightful fulfilment of the project called life, suggests Hesse.


The idiom, “Well begun is half done”, suggests such magical power of initial creativity capital. Those ideas are powerful enough, that they can change the world. And the original creativity capital already signifies the half work done!


But half is half! The other half is still laborious. It demands a great amount of elaboration to make a creative insight perfect. Many creative thinkers fail in elaboration of creative ideas born to them. They do not brood over the creative ideas so that they blossom and bear fruits in the course of time. They do not bring their tinkering thoughts to perfection. They love to wander from one creative idea to the other, chasing the mirage of novelty.


“Heroism at the starting point!”


In Malayalam, such people are ridiculed as possessing so called, “Aarambha suratwam”, “heroism at the starting point”. This reminds of the improperly trained long-distance runners, who speed up prematurely at the starting point and during the initial laps and loses the race in the end. “Heroism at the starting point” characterizes a large number of creative minds. They of course get sufficient initial capital from the creative trigger. They begin really well. But sooner or later they shift their interest to something else, without fulfilling their life’s projects. But they keep things half-done, half-cooked and half-hearted.


They begin to dream wild anew. They give up their projects and programs in the face of perceivable adversities. They suffer from lack of perseverance. They fail to perfect their ideas into concepts and to convert their concepts into useful products. They do not take pains to perfect creative ideas and communicate them to others in a powerful and convincing manner. The world is a graveyard of many creative ideas because of the timidity of its creative minds. They have “heroism at the starting point”. But they fail to keep the heroism till end and thus fail to reap fruits. Creative ideas are just like beautiful flowers for them. No sooner do they bloom, than they fade away. They are short-lived. They do not produce sustainable fruits.


Sufficient resistance to premature closure should be developed for creative projects. This involves prior knowledge of the possible challenges to the creative concepts and remedies to combat them. Due to this reason elaboration becomes a necessary component of creative thinking and necessary prerequisite for its successful realization.


Elaboration is essential


The fourth aspect of creative thinking as suggested by J.P Guilford, the creativity pundit, is “Elaboration”: the ability to convincingly communicate creative ideas as creative products. Elaboration is given to the creative spark in order to carry it to fruition. It acts upon an inspiringly original idea to complete it. It enhances ideas by providing more details, in terms of finishing touches or packaging. Those additional details and clarity make it real, more perfect, understandable, and aesthetically pleasing. They improve interest in and understanding of the idea by others. With sufficient elaboration, a creative concept will be market-ready. It sells!


Many creative ideas are often rejected as “crazy” by others due to the lack of sufficient elaboration. People count them as weird and eerie ideas and fail to connect with them. In order that creative ideas make additional appeal to as many people as possible, it should be expressed and communicated suitably. Elaboration is a method of making creative ideas catching.


Elaboration consists of activities that make the creative idea whole. It includes filling the gaps, tying up loose ends, avoidance of resemblances, highlighting the uniqueness, etc. The entire process of elaboration is to make the creative idea into a concept understood and appreciated by as many people as possible. It may not convince everybody. But sizeable adherents to the creative concepts alone make it sustainable. It takes a great deal of elaboration to sell an idea and to ensure its decent acceptability.


Elaboration includes steps that just affect quantity of a creative idea. Elaboration in this sense includes activities like to add, to embroider, to expand, to build, to enlarge, to extend, to embellish, to enrich, to stretch, etc. New details are added, fanciful additions are embroidered, different aspects of the idea are given suitable expansions, new arguments are built up, certain aspects of the idea are enlarged, some other aspects are extended to include new horizons of meaning, new information is added to embellish it, weak aspects of the idea are enriched, some aspects of the idea are stretched to connect to other aspects, etc. All these activities are geared to make the original creative idea total and intelligible.


Elaboration also includes actions that improve the quality of a creative idea. It includes activities like to assess, to critique, to determine, to evaluate, to grade, to judge, to measure, to select, to test, etc. Different aspects of the idea are assessed on their merits, critique is made on logical structure of the idea, the limits and possibilities of ideas are determined, the efficacy of the idea is evaluated, the relative advantage of the idea is found out through proper grading against similar concepts, careful judgement of the merits and demerits of the idea is developed, the contextual fitness is measured, etc. All these efforts are oriented to improve comparative worth of the creative idea and concept over other competing ideas and concepts.


Elaboration makes creative ideas fit for communication. Half-baked ideas lack selling points. The elaboration process nurtures the original trigger contained in the novel idea to a level, which liberates it from the apparently ‘“crazy” world of creativity and make them palatable to ordinary minds also.


During elaboration lateral thinking skills of creative minds meet their linear thinking skills. A synergy between lateral and linear thinking skills is the secret of successful elaboration procedures. In other words, even though creative thinking is born out of lateral thinking skills, linear thinking skills assumes important roles in the final development of creative thinking. They are two aspects of the same process, two sides of the same coin.


Elaboration is essential not just in the development of an idea. It is equally important in the sustainable development of a project, in the building up of an institution or in the creative development of a movement. They might be born out of creative spark of some creative minds. They might be emanated from the dreams of some charismatic personalities. True elaboration in the course of time is necessary to keep the original spirit of these projects, institutions or movements. They will wither away in the absence of timely and suitable elaboration. Thus elaboration is creativity in nurture.


How to develop elaboration skills


The result of elaboration is observed in the greatest human achievements as diverse as the great sculpture of Pieta, a smart phone, or constitution of a democratic nation. Each of these projects and products started from a simple creative concept and grew into an impressive final product. The process that allowed the simple concept to take shape is elaboration.


It is possible to train oneself in the art of elaboration. It has a lot to do with imagination and power of visualization. Elaboration is done by asking all kinds of questions of linear thinking to the creative idea. Clarity and distinction in thinking is the key to the success in this process. The art of addressing divergent concerns and integrating a multitude of perspectives is at stake here. To develop elaboration skills one should learn the art of optimally asking the fundamental questions of linear thinking, namely, five Ws and one H question, which were immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in his “Just So Stories” (1902) through the following verses:


“I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.”


In addition to training in these fundamental questions of linear thinking, one should also familiarize oneself with a multitude of questions directed to improve both the quantity and quality of elaboration as suggested above. Armed with excellent elaborations skills, a creative mind will harvest the richest fruits of creativity.

Dr. Varghese Panthalookaran

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