Invention refers to the act of creating content. Content can be words on a page, musical symbols, mathematical equations, pictures and animations. Invention is a critical component of composition and composing processes. Invention is the output of extended, sustained study.
Perhaps because they have a fixed mindset and haven’t yet discovered the generative power of language–some people do not perceive themselves to be creative. They reserve the terms creative or innovative for people who write literature, create art work, invent products, or lead scientific breakthroughs. People who develop new theories, products, and ideas certainly deserve to be called “creative” or “innovative,” yet the vast majority of us can be creative, too.
Our insights, ideas, products, and art work may not transform the world; they may not even be perceived by others as creative because to others they may seem familiar or prosaic. However, if we develop ideas, stories, and works of art that are new to us (that we’re not copying), then we are being creative. Our creations may not enrich society at large, yet they may enrich our personal lives, and, perhaps, the lives of those around us. Over time, our “small c” creative projects may lead to a “big c” Creative project–something that truly does transform how people think about the world. A daily pattern of being creative, of working hard to solve problems, may lead, over time, to breakthroughs for ourselves and others.
For writers, invention is where the magic happens. Writers don’t get hooked on writing because of all of the hard work. Instead, writers are inspired by the joy of discovery, the bliss of finding what they want to say as they write.
From Invention to Innovation
One of the best ways to tap into your potential is to figure out what interests you. Collaboration, Genre, Information Literacy, Invention, Revision, Invention Mindset, Organization, Research, Rhetoric, Style and Editing are more engaging processes when the end result is something that matters deeply to you.
“When you feel like you’re not productive, it’s not necessarily because you’re lazy or because you have bad habits, it’s because you’re not working on the right projects and you haven’t found the ones that are intrinsically motivating and meaningful to you.”— Adam Grant, https://tim.blog/2019/12/05/adam-grant/
For other circumstances, you know, the other 99% of life, especially when you’re working for other people, there’s still hope. The human mind flourishes when challenged.
The intellectual strategies that comprise writing processes invariably leads to creative thinking. Talking over ideas with friends and experts (Collaboration), seeing how others have crafted texts addressing similar rhetorical situations (Genre), learning about a topic (Information Literacy), managing your writing processes (Mindset), conducting empirical studies (Research), and trying to inform, entertain or persuade someone (Rhetoric)–these intellectual strategies beget creative thinking and deeper learning. Writing, as a mode of thinking and learning:
The people you know, the ways they respond to your ideas, shape what and how you create.
Genres reflect . Genre reflects the histories, activities, and values of communities of practitioners.
Your understanding of genres, which are the shared expectations, the commonplace between readers and writers, informs how you shape your stories.
Writers work with information to generate topics, stories, and research questions to write about (see especially Scholarship as a Conversation). Hence, your relationship to information plays a major role in what is said and what is left unsaid.
In 1898, Thomas Edison, the American inventor, is quoted in The Ladies Home Journal as saying “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Although a cliché at this point, Edison’s aphorism remains as true now as it did in the early 1900s.
Perhaps most of all, Invention is shaped by Mindset. The act of Invention is characterized by a spirit of openness, optimism, and play. For many people, invention is the best part of writing. Invention is, after all, where the magic happens–where writers are inspired by the joy of discovery, the bliss of finding what they want to say as they write. That said, it’s also true that some writing tasks don’t require all of your creative bandwidth–like writing a shopping list or a quick Tweet. But the bottom line is that if you don’t have a Growth Mindset, if you can’t quiet the internal editor and Play the Believing game, you won’t be much good at Invention.
Disciplinary communities (e.g., engineering, nursing, chemistry) have long-standing traditions regarding how to posit and test knowledge claims. Learning new ways to develop knowledge claims empowers writers to join new communities which reinforces our social nature as humans.
Where’s the bleeding edge? What do experts on a topic currently think are the most important remaining research questions and research methods?