Friday, October 17, 2008

Let's Be Logical

It's a writer cliche: "There are numbers? I can't do numbers. I'm terrible at math."

The creatives love to boast about their mathematical and logical ignorance. I guess the worse you are at math, the more likely you are to be the next Kerouac. And if that's true, then I'm surprised Kerouac could count to 10.

But it's not true. Creative people can be logical. And it doesn't have to detract from how creative you are. It's a lot easier to think outside of the box if you can measure the dimensions of the box first. Otherwise, how else would you know you were thinking outside?

Personally, I've always tested higher with my math skills. On the SATs I got a near perfect score on the math section. I did well on the verbal section, too. But on paper, I obviously was destined to be a scientist, a savant or a guy that guesses your weight at carnivals. And I almost went to college to become an electrical engineer because, after all, tests don't lie. But what I realized was that my love of logic and mathematical apptitude doesn't counteract or negate my creative abilities. In fact, it can enhance them.

Good writers, good creative writers like Dave Eggers, Sarah Vowell and those of that ilk, do a tremendous amount of research when working on their books. Comedians like Patton Oswalt and Maria Bamford spend a lot of time poring over their jokes, refining them to maximize their laughter quotient. A script writer must calculate the unveiling of a plot in order to ensure that the pacing will be exactly right. All of this takes a very skilled, highly functioning left brain.

So let's do away with the old cliches and embrace our nerdy, logical sides. Pens and rulers unite!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love boasting about my mathematical ignorance. Truly. Except when I'm in a roomful of accounting students and one of them said I messed up in the adding her score.


Or how I was using a calculator and thinking out loud, "Alright class, what's 11+9?"

I totally agree on what you said about knowing the measurement of a box though. A friend once told me that you've got to know the inside of the box first before getting out of it, know the system first to know how to break out of it. And thus my life philosophy was born.

And I'm scared of those rulers. I only use them to make a perfect line. ;)