The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

Just Thinking With My Fingers

I’m not writing this post, I’m just thinking with my fingers. That’s a line stolen from the great science-fiction writer extraordinaire, Issac Asimov. It’s true though; if you’re a writer and you’ve ever felt like you’ve suffered from “Writer’s Block”, best-selling author and blogger Seth Godin would tell you that there’s actually no such thing. Rather in his words, “People don’t ever wake up with talker’s block”. Seth writes exactly how he talks (I’ve heard him speak).

The other day, I was deeply intrenched in a conversation with a close friend about the subtleties of cooking. I absolutely love the mind-stilling tranquility and creativity of being in a kitchen and making a delicious soul- and body-nourishing meal. I probably enjoy eating even more, but something about the mixing, stirring, and mashing of different ingredients to create some beautiful end-product is another one of my personal safe-places of creative expression. And it was in the midst of this conversation and later reflection on this idea, that the threads of this article about thinking with your fingers started to weave themselves together into the word-tapestry you see before you.

The human brain deserves an award. Subconsciously and simultaneously, it controls thousands of vital bodily functions, without you requiring to do anything at all. Nobody ever has to lecture you on how to blink. Nobody ever has to show you how to breathe, or digest your food; you’re just born knowing how to do it all. But, beyond controlling core bodily functions, your brain also has the potential to influence what happens outside your body. Take for example, if you suddenly feel the urge to go fishing, that craving begins to physically manifest itself. You call your friend, you drive to the ocean, you cast your line into the salty water, you catch a fish, and so on.

Thoughts have the power to become actions. If you want better actions, make better thoughts.

This is the best part about thinking with your fingers. Understanding that our flesh and bodies are actually the extension of our minds means that if you can think it, see it, in theory you can create it, or at least make an honest attempt. A top chef must be able to envision the finished dish before she starts cooking, at the very least have some rough concept before randomly throwing spices into pans. When perhaps the greatest Italian sculptor, Michelangelo was asked how he was able to create the statue of David, he simply replied: “I removed everything that wasn’t David.”

Michelangelo’s David

Beautiful thought, the Greek’s had a word for it: Eunoia is behind all beautiful art, which to me, is really the physical expression or manifestation of one’s thoughts. Which means that underlying genius art is some seriously quality thinking. If you’ve ever felt envious of your infinitely “creative” friends, there’s no need, because you too can bring thoughtful expression into your life. All you need is a little time and encouragement. One of the biggest reasons people decide not to share their early work is because it doesn’t live up to their own ideals or the standards of others. Just watch the following video:

This frustrating, discouraging gap between your taste (which is usually half-decent) and your starting skill level (typically not as good initially) is the culprit. But bridging taste and ability requires capital-C Commitment. Don’t think for a second that somebody like Michael Jordan came out of the womb as an NBA MVP. You’ve got to really want, no, CRAVE to improve, definitely more than you enjoy sitting in your comfortable chair. If you can keep that sacred vow to yourself to practice and improve each day, then you have the potential to produce something great. Thinking with your fingers, your paintbrushes, your pots and pans, or even with Italian marble is a beautiful and romantic idea. It’s the power to extend your brain’s capacity beyond its fleshy, boney, dome-shaped cage.

Influencing and manipulating your physical environment in a creative, artistic, and sensually pleasing way is easier than you might think. But before you can master what to think, you must learn how to think, why to think. And in all this thinking, and thinking about thinking, your fingers will start moving, your brushes will start brushing, and your chisels will begin to chip away, piece by piece, revealing your brilliance, for all to see.