A few years ago, as I worked through the BlogElul challenge, I riffed on the theme of “fixing” vs “solving” and how it parallelled the difference between DO-ing and CREATE-ing
“Fixing is merely the act of making the problem go away. […] Solving means changing architectural or organizational issues. Solving means building a better system based on everything we’re learned from the old one. Solving means playing a long game. […] Today I want to suggest that DO-ing is the same as FIX-ing. It’s a good start, but it’s not the whole story. Beyond asking ourselves what we’re going to DO, we should think deeply and seriously about what we are going to CREATE.”
Today I want to build on that idea, by pointing out that building on an idea is also a creative act.
For those of us who see ourselves as creative individuals – whether those creations are artistic (like paintings or books), or technical (like code or architectures), or even purely conceptual (like theories or even new insights into existing issues or experiences) – I believe we sometimes get hung up on the need to create something completely new, something novel, something never before seen.
Which, as good old Kohelet / Ecclesiastes tells us, is impossible because “…there is nothing new beneath the sun!” (Ecc. 1:9). But far from being something to discourage us from trying to create, I believe that sentiment is trying to point us toward a healthier way of working, thinking, and creating.
If we accept that our ideas and inspirations have been explored before, we are free to build on those older versions. To extend them, to enhance them, to deepen them, and/or to personalize them.
In our tech life, we might refer to this as “iteration” – looping over the same idea with small variations.
And this holds a key for us in Elul. As we consider the ways in which we can address our imperfections and improve ourselves, it’s easy to fall into the trap of ignoring the things we’ve done before. “I already worked on my temper. So I can’t pick that again.” Sure you can. If it needs work, it needs work.
The repetition doesn’t invalidate the new work you can do and the new progress you can make.