This post is going to be a little different. I believe creativity flourishes in an environment where wildness is encouraged and constraints help focus exploration. It seems most of the tools I share are about constraints so today I wanted to write about wildness. I'm going to share the backstory of Tools Not Rules.
In 2013 my wife and I were in Peru where we hired a shaman and a translator to guide us through an experience with ayahuasca. While preparing for the ceremony the shaman told us to hold one question in the back of our minds., something that we'd like to ask the vine, something that would pull us back from the blackness when things became too difficult. My question was this: what is the nature of creativity?
The ceremony was harder than I had imagined. The brew was thick - the bottommost sludge of a Turkish coffee - and tasted like earth and lemon. I chugged it down quickly, handed my cup to the shaman then lay back and closed my eyes. A short time later, maybe half an hour, the ayahuasca made itself known. I grew dizzy and the world was unreliable, shifting around me, and I sat up suddenly, overwhelmed by the need to vomit. The shaman's assistant was waiting by my side with a bucket and, surprisingly, the vomiting felt natural and offered a brief sense of relief from the tension growing inside of me. I fell backwards into my sleeping bag and was eventually overwhelmed by visions. Snakes coiled around me, eyes blinked at me from every surface and I was eaten whole by an enormous circular mouth with countless rows of jagged teeth. A fever consumed me. Dimly I was aware of the shaman breathing smoke and spitting agua de florida to calm me. I was terrified and at the darkest moment I swore I would never do it again.
But it was worth it.
When I woke from my hallucinations I discovered that I had written down the outlines for two projects. One was a book, which I'm currently working on, and the other was Tools Not Rules. During my journey the vine showed me all of the notes and observations I'd made about the design process, over twenty years of experience and research, and it told me to connect the dots. It told me to do something with all of that information.
I decided to share it with you.