Analytical & Creative

and why the two don't have to be mutually exclusive

Growing up, I fell in love with music. I started playing guitar when I was 12 years old because I wanted to write songs, and give them a melodic body. I spent all middle school and high school writing songs, listening to radio and to my favourite albums and trying to mimic those melodies, trying to play them by ear. But more than just playing my favourite songs, I wanted to be able to use those techniques and give it a personal touch.

At the same time I was pretty good at languages, acing at Portuguese, English, French, I was writing short stories (most of which I lost track of) ... And I loved Math.

So, when it came to make a decision of what career I wanted to pursue, these two dimensions of my life collided. In one front there was a career that was labelled as artistic and creative, in the other, a very rational, "brainy", analytical one.

What made me choose the latter was that I always had the intuition that the two worlds are not disjoint.

Still to this day, what I like the most about Math, Statistics, Natural Sciences, … is how we can come to understand and master complex concepts and systems by taking a divide and conquer approach: breaking it into smaller, isolated concepts or sub-systems, and learning each one at a time, step-by-step. Always building on top of previous knowledge in order to get the entire picture of what we want to learn.

As in music, that's also what I've become to enjoy the most: how a song can have a multitude of layers, some of which might not seen part of the main melody but, if you take a step back, those layers, those branches of the same tree, make the song so much richer, so much more intense. You're able to experience different facets of a song, sibling melodies that all put together, converge in a sensory explosion! That's what I feel when I listen Sigur Rós, Broken Social Scene, Hans Zimmer scores, El Ten Eleven… the list goes on and on …

For a few years, I completely shut down my creative side. I decided to stop playing music and writing. I shifted my focus, and wanted to devote every single drop of my energy to my "left brain" skills, to learn more, define, exercise and master my methods.

However, it was only when I started craving for creativity and started embracing it, letting it grow on me again that I truly realised that both worlds are not disjoint at all. On the contrary, they're part of the whole, part of me. Both your creative and rational side need each other to excel.

In hindsight, this period when I avoided being creative was extremely important in defining what I wanted to be my main path. Naturally, after that main path was consolidated, I started creating forks along the way, reaching out to other areas that could complement what I defined as core.

If we look closely, every artist has a method, whether they explicitly call it method or not. Inspiration, ideas and thoughts come and go, but execution relies on action, method and persistence.

It's also not unusual for a doctor, an engineer or a mathematician to enjoy reading fantasy or sci-fi books, or to have hobbies like painting, playing a instrument or writing poetry.

The rational and creative are sides of the same coin. Exercising a good balance of the two can, on one hand, really free us from the strictness of being too rational and be open to what creativity injects in you: the infinite possibilities, the multiple ways/perspectives on things, the capacity of adapting to new situations, to improvise when needed. On the other hand, this duality can help us find structure when faced with a multitude of ideas and stimuli, define a working method that we feel comfortable with in order to better express ourselves and become better, more productive in our art.

Something as simple as reading more fiction books has helped find that balance, particularly exercising imagination. I find myself able to look at things from different angles before deciding on where to start, but at the same time not falling prey to analysis paralysis. It makes mentally flexible, not contrived to what's in front of me.

Truth is, I'm also finding myself drawing more and more, "storing" knowledge with doodles, short sentences, pictorial references that help me create a mental model of something I've learned and want to remember.

Even if I don't know exactly how I know it, or in what book i read it from, the connections are there, and that piece of information was retrieved when I needed the most.

Right brain or left brain, creative or rational, it all boils down to balance. And there's no golden rule for that. When we find what works for us, makes us feel good, productive and in tune with everyone and everything around us. That's the way to go 🚀💪

Thanks for reading.

I write about Data Science, Data Visualization, books and learning more effectively 📚🌱💡🚀

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