Alex's notes

The three creative threads

Creativity is detective work, and the detective chooses which thread to follow:

  1. The technical thread

    Math, logic, code, precision, speed, memorization, timing, accuracy, coordination, practice. Exclusive pursuit of this thread results in Mad scientist mode.

  2. The conceptual thread

    Language, story, “what’s the point”, meaning, vocabulary, naming, categorization, context, politics, history, communication, relationships. Pursuit of this thread can sometimes conflict with the intuitive thread; conceptual thinking diminishes experience1.

  3. The intuitive thread

    Direct experience, feeling, emotion, anti-concept, psychedelic, beauty, singularity, god. The aspect of creative work that is indescribable in words. It is the motivation behind the creative work in the first place — it’s the “thing” you are trying do. It’s easy to confuse the intuitive thread with the concept you ascribe to the work, but they are separate. After all, if a work consisted of concept only, it would be enough to describe the concept using language, and the work would not need to exist.

The choice of thread determines the result of the creative project. For example, a singer-songwriter might follow the technical thread by practicing singing scales, and make a technical breakthrough that allows her to sing a note she hasn’t been able to hit previously. She then might be inspired to feature that “discovery” in a song. However, she then might switch her tactic to pursing the conceptual thread of inquiry when she begins to write lyrics.

Maybe a healthy creator has a balanced diet of creative threads, sometimes pursuing technical mastery, sometimes telling a conceptual story, and sometimes working from pure intuition. But maybe the best creators only follow the intuitive thread. I usually follow the technical thread.


  1. Conversation with Ally Gale, June 2021. Language describing an experience is a diminuation of the experience. ↩︎

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