I can't pretend that I completely understand the mental machinery they describe (I'm not sure anybody does), but there's a common thread that connects every interview: this idea that the mind is not a unified entity, but is instead a loose coalition of independent operators that may occasionally work at cross purposes. In extreme cases, you can end up with hemispheres that have dramatically different goals (see alien hand syndrome). The whole notion of a single identity starts to look like a gross oversimplification of a much more complicated reality. What's your favorite color? There may be ten different and completely legitimate answers to that question.
It's hard not to speculate about the ways that this sort of inner diversity may affect artistic creativity. I've started to think that whatever agency is responsible for the good bits of Project Waldo is completely separate from the mind that's composing this blog post. I've heard many artists talk about "tuning in to their muse" or "getting in the zone" when they work, and I've spent many years attempting to get that well of creativity to flow on demand. Those attempts have been mostly unsuccessful.
Once a month, I attend the Tuesday Art Group, a gathering where game and comic artists congregate to sketch and talk and look at one other's work. Some blindingly talented people show up to this thing -- folks like Vinod Rams and his wife Emily Fiegenschuh fill giant sketchbooks with endless, effortless streams of gorgeous artwork. It's hard not to feel like Salieri in a room full of Mozarts. In any event, the people looking over your shoulder are people you'd like to impress. And for the life of me, I can barely manage a stick figure in this setting. It's gotten to the point where I've started to feel like an impostor.
It's certainly not the first time I've experienced the art version of a bashful bladder -- sitting beside Brandon Graham at this year's Emerald City convention, I was stunned by the ease with which he whipped out sketches for fans. I kept thinking, "there's no way I could do this. Every character drawing I made would end up a stunted, homunculoid atrocity."
Radiolab has prompted me to think about this problem in different terms. I've started to wonder if it's not so much a problem of finding my creative voice as it is about turning down the volume on a second, louder voice that's been shouting it down. The metaphor that comes to mind is of a room that contains a shy but poetic little girl and her hulking, overbearing agent. The room's door has a little grill to talk through, and I come to it every day hoping to hear some poetry. When I show up, the fat guy starts berating the child: "YOU'VE GOT TO COME UP WITH SOMETHING GOOD THIS TIME! THEY'RE NOT GOING TO LIKE YOU ANYMORE IF YOU BLOW THIS!" And he keeps shouting even as the kid begins her recitation. Of course I can't hear that little voice through the door with all that yelling going on. On rare occasions, perhaps when the man is asleep, I can sneak up to the door and catch a snippet of what the girl's saying. Of course, as soon as the agent realizes I'm there, the din resumes.
I also suspect it's the agent who's so eager to take the credit when I return to the room with news that someone liked the poetry. "I'M PRETTY DARN GREAT, DON'T YOU THINK?" I don't suppose the girl really cares what anybody thinks.
So I guess it's not so much a problem of getting the girl to talk. It's a problem of getting the big fat guy to shut up for a second.