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Fighting Out of Formation - a Metaphor for Creativity

You'll see a theme in history - armies that train for "worst case scenario" eventually kick the hell out of armies they don't. Command and control based armies, that only fight well in formation, tend to do really well until their ranks get broken. Then they get slaughtered.

If you look at George Washington or Napoleon Bonaparte, their forces knew how to fight out of formation. That's why they were able to win important battles against larger, more well-equipped forces. They stirred up a bunch of chaos because their forces were able to handle chaos better than the enemy.

I think if you want to do creative endeavors like writing, painting, whatever - you need to learn to fight out of formation. By that, I mean you need to learn how to do it without having "formal expert tone" or being highly polished. Ideally, you can communicate well without necessarily obeying grammar and punctuation. After all, the point of writing is to communicate - the language is supposed to serve you, you're not supposed to serve it.

It takes a lot longer to get into formation if you're out of it than to just fight slightly wild and crazy. Of course, you should learn discipline and how to fight in formation, and should be able to do well in that role. It might even be your bread and butter. But if you're editing every memo you send, every blog post you write, every rallying talk or speech you give - then you're burning a lot of time.

Yes, fighting in formation produces better results much of the time. But sometimes ranks get broken, and then you're screwed if it's the only way you know. I think it's better to learn to fight out of formation before you ever need to. The quality of out-of-formation output is going to be lower at first than in-formation output. You need to learn how to deal with a chaotic messy environment. It doesn't have to be the only way you do things; in fact, sometimes you ought to use proper grammar and punctuation. But you also should be able to handle not doing it, just throwing things together with commas and dashes, slapping some rough thoughts down, and figuring it'll turn out okay. As long as what you're saying is clear enough, you don't have to bow to formality.

Ordering the Chaos

From my own Personal Operations and Principles document, which I'll brush up and publish sooner or later; but think later rather than sooner. This particular one strikes me as something not reflected on often enough:

XVIII. Ordering the Chaos: Many -- perhaps most -- of culture is ordering the external world against chaos for the mind of the person immersed in the culture. Two of the unique characteristics of the mind are (1) it is incredibly good at pattern-matching, and (2) the untrained mind looks first to confirm its current understanding and see the patterns it already accepts. Because the patterns of the natural world do not take heed of human desires, of human views of fairness and unfairness, of the human need for an orderly world that makes sense, the mind sees chaos and meaninglessness and gets into immense distress. This is alleviated by culture, which orders and creates a pattern for the mind to match. The culture/cultures you accept to order the world for you are one of the most important things affecting what becomes of your life, your mind, and your happiness. You already have accepted immense amounts of culture; it becomes up to you to identify what culture you have accepted, and gradually shift it over time to what will produce a life that would be in line with what you wish internally and the external world simultaneously. Some cultures are better at this than others.

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