January 23

I grew up in a home situated right next to heavily trafficked railroad tracks. At night, as I would lie in bed trying desperately to go to sleep, I would feel a faint rumble in my mattress. It was almost unnoticeable at first, but then it would send vibrations up and down my legs. As I waited patiently, I began to hear the rumble of an engine, then the wheels on the rails, then finally a loud whistle—WOOOOOO!—of a train passing our house.

We tend to think creative breakthroughs are like the WOOOOOO! of a loud train whistle. We hear stories of aha moments that suddenly appear out of nowhere. But more often, creative ideas begin like a distant rumble, a faint vibration that signals that something is coming. Those who can hear those faint rumblings are often considered “visionaries” or “ahead of their time,” but they are simply listening for the patterns.

How do we hear the patterns? We get quiet, just like I was quiet lying in my bed. We pay attention to fragments of conversation, intuitive hunches, sparks of inspiration. And we attempt to connect them into meaningful patterns. Much of the creative process is simply listening for the patterns that lie just beneath the surface of our conscious thoughts.

Get quiet, and listen for patterns.

You can’t force creativity, but you can listen for it.

Is there a pattern that you’re sensing right now but haven’t fully recognized?

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