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thinking, evaluation. Great creators can do both. They can balance both a divergent exploration where they entertain lots of options and a convergent narrowing of these ideas to bring it back down to earth. Let me use a writer as an example. Hemingway was a classic example of someone who developed a practice of balancing divergent and convergent thinking. From the biographical material that I’ve read, Hemingway would get up in the morning and be at his standing desk. He would start with free-writing, using blank sheets of paper and— this was crucial—pencils without erasers, so that he wouldn’t edit his thinking. He wrote in half sentences, ignored grammar, ignored punctuation, and just got going. He explored what he was writing from all angles and then, only when he felt he had enough material, he would move to the typewriter. That’s divergent, followed by convergent thinking. And this is what became his routine. This is what good creators do. So divergent thinking is the ability to generate many varied original options. Many varied and original options. The principle that one has to master in order to be an effective divergent thinker, of which I think Hemingway is an excellent example, is to manage your judgment. It’s argued that criticism kills creative writing. So when you’re exploring, if you enter into editing and premature evaluation, it will snuff out your imagination. Another one of the things that Hemingway did, which is another good example of his ability to engage in both divergent and convergent thinking, was revealed when he was interviewed by by George Plimpton for “The Paris Review.” Plimpton asked him, “How do you come up with your titles for your books?” And Hemingway said, “Well, when I’m done writing the book I sit down and I generate 100 titles. No less. And then I look through that list and if there’s a title that I like, then I select it. If there’s not one that I like that gets at the essence of what I want to be able to communicate, then I generate another 100 titles.” Again, this is divergent thinking being balanced off with convergent thinking. Hemingway did the same thing again when he wrote the ending to Farewell to Arms. He wrote more than 43 endings before he selected the one he was going to go with. And what’s even more interesting about that is that some of the endings he didn’t go with were then embedded earlier in the story because he liked what he wrote so well. So, the key to the creative process is really learning how to balance those two forms of thinking. Now, unfortunately, in schools we focus on convergent thinking. Single right answer instead of divergent thinking, which is a skill we have proven can be taught very effectively to students. Windmill 7

Profile for Hofstra University

Windmill - December 2016  

The Hofstra Journal of Literature and Art

Windmill - December 2016  

The Hofstra Journal of Literature and Art

Profile for hofstra