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The Bastid Jailer

One would be insane to argue that legendary sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov was not a prolifically creative person. That’s why I rushed to read this essay he wrote waaay back in 1959 on the subject of creativity: Published for the First Time: a 1959 Essay by Isaac Asimov on Creativity.

As expected, Mr. Asimov did not disappoint. Check out his keen insights on some necessary conditions for tricking the bastid jailer of creativity into unlocking the shackles that keep it out of sight:

Creativity arises from an individual constructing mental connections between two or more ideas which might not ordinarily seem connected. This ability to make cross-associations often comes from eccentric individuals (those willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense) with a good background in a particular field, and with a keen interest in solving a specific problem in that field.

My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.

Besides the shackles, our bastid jailer controls a powerful anti-creativity force field baked into our minds:

Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues. To feel guilty because one has not earned one’s salary because one has not had a great idea is the surest way, it seems to me, of making it certain that no great idea will come in the next time either.

But we’re not done yet. Our bastid jailer is not alone! He has cleverly deputized the entire human race to be on guard against jailbreaks :

The world in general disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad. Even to speculate in public is rather worrisome.

Bastid Jailer




  1. Rainee
    October 27, 2014 at 2:31 am

    Great post and thanks for the link to the article. I just recently read ‘A Room of One’s Own’ by Virginia Woolf. She was asked to give a lecture on Women and Fiction and her response reiterates what your blog is about today – creativity needs isolation 🙂 therefore a woman needs to have a room of her own to be able to write!

    • October 27, 2014 at 4:35 am

      Ur welcome Rainee.

      The interesting tidbit for me was the “responsibility” inhibitor. The more responsibilities one has, the less time there is for creativity to surface.

  2. October 27, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Tony, thanks for posting this! A great essay by an amazing writer (I meant Asimov, not you, sorry!).

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