John Dickerson is co-host of CBS this morning. He is also a Contributing Editor to The Atlantic and the host of the Whistlestop podcast and co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest.

Two and Two Make Five

Creativity comes from building something entirely new, but also from combining two previous things in a new way. We know this from Emerson, West Side Story and, of course, Hamilton.

Emerson: June 18, 1838: “The art of writing consists in putting two things together that are unlike and that belong together, like a horse and cart. Then have we somewhat far more goodly and efficient [whole] than either.” (p. 607 The Portable Emerson).

Sure, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We know that, John. Yes, but knowing to put two things together is the creative genius. I wish Emerson had picked a better metaphor. Instead, I’ll hand it over to Charles Duhigg who in his book Smarter, Better, Faster 

describes how West Side Story was put together: 

“Jerome Robbins found that taking proven, conventional ideas from other settings and combining them in new ways was incredibly effective to spark creative success. Most original ideas evolve from existing concepts. Anyone can become more creative by learning how to foster novelty by juxtaposing what you may already know.”

And this is quite true of Hamilton, of course. (Our interview with the creators, here)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *