David's Toe

Often when I think of a new project or idea, and I begin to pursue it, people ask me for a roadmap. I'll be at a loss for words to explain certain details, or answer certain questions because I frankly don't know, I haven't gotten to that part yet. And then I'll be asked how it is that I can be sure I'm going to accomplish something, or exactly what it is I'm envisioning. These days I tell them it's a toe, along with the following analogy:

Sometimes very good ideas come in fragments, a piece of a beautiful aesthetic or the key concept in a novel way of looking at a problem. You get this fragment, but you don't get the rest of it, at least not right away. You have to extrapolate from the fragment to get the completed work. The metaphor I use for this is a big toe on the statue of David. Often ideas come to me at first as this crystalline, beautifully structured toe. And I know that this toe is the start of a great statue, but it's just a toe. You have to dig at the marble, imagine other things, and slowly sort of build the statue from this one small inspiration. It's reasonable to ask "Can you really build an entire statue just from one of its toes?, and if it's the right toe the answer is quite often yes. Sometimes a fragment like that comes to you so clearly, and has tendrils digging out to so many other potential connections in your brain that once you have it the feet, legs, chest, arms, face, begin to easily reveal themselves to your gaze. And the more you work out about this toe and how it fits into the statue, the easier that statue becomes to design. Creativity is much easier when the search space is narrowed, and it starts with the toe.