Great creative minds don’t complicate their subject – they simplify and clarify. It’s possible to become lost in language and ideas. To use words to make yourself sound clever, rather than actually be clever.
Can you sum up what you’re doing in a sentence or two? If you explain your idea to a five year old and they don’t understand it, there is something wrong with the idea.
Instead of shaving cream, Albert Einstein used hand soap for shaving. A friend once asked him why. He answered, ‘Two soaps? That is too complicated.’ Einstein owned only one pair of shoes. The moment they wore out he bought a new pair and immediately threw out the old ones. He hated anything unnecessary.
Although trivial, these examples illustrate a process central to Einstein’s thinking. Both in his work and life, he was compelled to simplify. Einstein found existing equations about electricity and magnetism too complicated. Two different sets of equations were needed to describe a single principal. They upset him on an aesthetic level. He complained that they looked unattractive.
In the introduction to the Theory of Relativity, Einstein explained that he was inspired to develop his new ideas because the existing ones were too awkward and ugly. The Theory of Relativity was born out of his desire to simplify. He summed everything up in one short equation.
People hide behind jargon. Complex language hides the lack of an interesting idea. They are saying look at how clever I am, not how clever the idea is.
Summing up your idea succinctly will help you to clarify what it is you are doing. There maybe deep and complex layers hidden within a work but Shakespeare’s plays, Mozart’s operas, and Monet’s water lily paintings can each be summed up in a sentence or two.
Say one thing and say it well.
This article is based on a chapter from Change Your Mind: 57 Ways to Unblock Your Creative Self by Rod Judkins