“On Writing” vs “Where Good Ideas Come From”

By Trissean McDonald

Stephen King’s curriculum vitae, “On Writing,” illustrates several network comparisons from Steven Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From,” because King utilizes the key components of the adjacent possible and error, as well as other networks, to assist in formulating innovative ways towards becoming a successful writer.

 If it weren’t for these prominent components, the successful journey in which King would later achieve in his career path, would not have ever been made possible.

 So, what are these networks or components? These networks or components, according to Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From,” are tools that could be utilized for the benefit and progression of new innovations. 

Although unintentional in his earlier years of becoming a writer, Stephen King has stumbled across numerous occasions in which King had to utilize certain networks or key components in “Where Good Ideas Come From,” in order to become a world famous writer. 
For instance, the adjacent possible, and how finding the “door of other opportunities” allowed King to stumble across countless struggles in order to welcome in a number of slow hunches towards his successful career.

Now, I bet you’re wondering, “what in the world is this author saying?” Well, let’s first start with Johnson’s definition of the adjacent possible. “Think of it as house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Those four rooms are the adjacent possible,” according to “Where Good Ideas Come From.

” In Stephen King’s “On Writing,” his hobby as a kid, spent lots of time copying comics word-for-word, occasionally changing words that seemed appropriate to him; therefore eagerly one day, he shows his mother his verbatim creations. 

Although being ridiculed by his mother to create his own work, this allowed King to enter into a state of error in order for him to experience his first adjacent possible as a writer. “I remember an immense feeling of possibility at the idea, as if I had been ushered into a vast building filled with closed doors and had been given leave to open any I liked. There were more doors than one person could ever open in a life- time, I thought (and still think),” a statement from King’s “On Writing.”

 POW! That minuscule error of King’s plagiarism “opened up” a doorway to an adjacent possible; therefore, birthing out a new innovation with which King gained the approval of his mother. King’s error also gave way to a slow hunch.

“Wait, wait a minute. What’s a ‘slow hunch’?” Here’s the thing: slow hunches requires a lot of time to develop, they’re easily lost to most daily obligations. Yet, the slow hunches are strengthened by the long incubation period with which they develop in, according to Johnson.

 One of Stephen King’s greatest novels, “Carrie,” underwent a series of slow hunches, causing him to actually give up on a hunch that’ll change his life forever; however it was his wife, Tabby, who found King’s error (in the garbage) and enlighten him to revisit his slow hunch. 

Welcoming the hunch, is putting it into the cultivation process. Adopting the hunch, is allowing the hunch to take root. As you revisit the hunch, you’re giving water to the hunch, causing the hunch to grow. Once the hunch is matured, it bears fruit. The fruit are those “eureka” moments; hence, King’s famous “Carrie.” 

According to King, he “wasn’t having much success with my own writing…The bigger deal was that, for the first time in my life, writing was hard.” Nevertheless, it was the components of using the adjacent possible, error, and also a liquid network that inspired King to produce a hefty number of reading material for the world’s gravitation.

To revisit Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From,” a liquid network is “when you share a common civic culture with thousands of other people, good ideas have a tendency to flow from mind to mind, even when their creators try to keep them secret.” 

In “On Writing,” Stephen King, who by error, stumbled across a liquid network in Brunswick High School by meeting Harry. Both King and Harry worked at the high school during one summertime. There’s a specific day that King becomes fascinated by what he sees inside a girl’s restroom. 

As King is cleaning the restroom, he notices several oddities. There weren’t any urinals inside the restroom, and two metal boxes that weren’t for paper towels. Upon King’s inquiry, “Pussy Plugs,” Harry explains. “For those certain days of the month.” 

King also becomes inquisitive about the purpose for a U-ring shower. “I guess young girls are a bit more shy about being undressed,” Harry continues. This slow hunch became one of the beginning stages of King entering into a liquid network. 

King revisited the hunch one day while working at the laundry. He begins to formulate a story about a girl showering in a girl’s locker room without any U-rings. The girl that’s showering starts her period; however, she’s ignorant of what it is. Being grossed out, or perhaps even amused, other girls around her started pelting tampons and pads at her. 

“Plug it up, plug it up,” the girls taunted. Meanwhile, the girl that’s having her period is petrified. She thinks that she’s bleeding to death, and how could these girls be taunting her, she’s dying. 

King visits another slow hunch after reading an article from Life magazine. The article was about alleged poltergeist activities possibly being a telekinetic phenomenon, especially in adolescent girls. 

BAM! King’s unintended article find in the magazine, brings about a slow hunch, the slow hunch brought about an adjacent possible, and the adjacent possible allowed King to adopt to a liquid network. He used two unrelated topics, connected the two hunches and “eureka,” he had the premise for “Carrie.”

The liquid network “creates a more promising environment for the system to explore the adjacent possible,” Johnson. The liquid network could only work when it’s in the environment suitable for it to work. Additionally, the adjacent possible is not reachable without an error or serendipity. 

Lastly, all errors brings about a slow hunch. Its then up to any individual to search for their adjacent possible and to find a liquid network to strengthen the flow of their innovation.

 In King’s case it was his wife Tabby, his mother, and constantly embracing slow hunches of creativity. Without these key components, King would not possibly been able to reach his adjacent possible, his liquid network, or even errors leading to slow hunches that birth out new innovations.


The Mixed Benefits of a Low-Threshold. 

By Trissean McDonald Individuals that develop characteristics of a low-threshold will most likely adopt other innovations with which those “low-threshold” individuals’ preference of choice becomes a factor in any situational circumstance, due to the mixed benefits of displaying low-threshold characteristics.

 I know, eyebrows are possibly rising. However, illustrations will be given to support this alleged claim, as well as future claims that may possibly be presented. Several examples will be extracted from the book “Where Good Ideas Come From,” a written text “Don’t! The Secret of Self-Control,” and from the text “Thresholds of Violence.” 

Within these texts, the benefits, as well as the disadvantages of exhibiting a low-threshold will be conveyed. As mentioned previously, having a low threshold has mixed benefits. 
The mixed benefits of a low-threshold could have a negative impact on an individual, or perhaps even a positive life-changing impact on an individual. It’s situational circumstances that will always leave that low-threshold individual in contemplation of quickly adopting an innovation to bring about an action, whether negatively or positively.

 In the late 1960’s according to “Don’t! The Secret of Self-Control,” by Jonah Lehrer, a study was conducted on a 4-year-old, Carolyn Weisz. Carolyn, who was invited into a “game room” at the Bing Nursery School, on the campus of Stanford University, was asked to sit down in a chair and pick a treat from an array of delicate treats such as marshmallows, cookies, and pretzel sticks. 

Carolyn chose the marshmallow. Walter Mischel, a Stanford professor of psychology, who conducted and in charge of the experimental study, then made an offer to Carolyn: she could either eat one marshmallow instantly, or if she was willing to delay gratification while he stepped out of the room for a few minutes, she could then have two marshmallows when he returned. 

Mischel had a bell on the desk in front of Carolyn. He told her if she were to ring the bell on the desk while he was out of the room, he would come running back, and she could eat one marshmallow yet forfeit the second. He leaves the room, and the experimental study begins. “I’ve always been really good at waiting. If you give me a challenge or a task, then I’m going to find a way to do it, even if it means not eating my favorite food,” Carolyn stated to Lehrer.

 Albeit Carolyn’s memory of the experiment is not concise, and the scientists were not willing to release any data concerning the subjects, Carolyn is adamant that she indeed was able to delay gratification, earning her a second marshmallow. 

The same experimental study was conducted on her brother Craig, who is one year older than Carolyn. However, the items that were presented to Craig were toys and candy. “At a certain point, it must have occurred to me that I was all by myself. And so I just started taking all the candy.” 

A lot of children were like Craig. They lacked the ability to delay gratification in less than 3 minutes. “A few kids ate the marshmallow right away. They didn’t even bother ringing the bell. Other kids would stare directly at the marshmallow and then ring the bell thirty seconds later,” Mischel stated.

 Yet, there were nearly 30% of children that delayed gratification, like Carolyn. They endured temptation and found a way to resist. Mischel, in 1981, sent out a survey to parents, teachers, and academic advisors of the 653 subjects who had taken part in the marshmallow experiment. 

According to Lehrer, Mischel inquired every trait he could think of. Upon analyzing the results of the surveys, Mischel observed that low-delayer, the children who rang the bell quickly, seemed most likely to exhibit behavioral problems at home and school. 

Additionally, these individuals tend to struggle in stressful situations, usually have difficulty paying attention, and find it challenging creating social interactions with their peers. These individuals, instead of delaying gratification, gave into their instant gratification and was rewarded instantly without an increase.

 They settle. Indeed, they benefited a sure reward; however, their low-threshold characteristics exhibited a negative innovative adoption to a situational circumstance with which their preference of choosing to adopt to an innovation quickly came into factor. 

Craig, who has been doing “all kinds of things” in the entertainment industry, mostly production says, “Sure, I wish I had been a more patient person. Looking back, there are definitely moments when it would have helped me make better career choices and stuff.” 

The experimental study concluded in “Don’t! The Secret of Self-Control” is an illustration of the negative connotations of having a low-threshold. Even though Craig presumably didn’t have behavioral problem at home or school, he still exhibited struggles in stressful situations, disabling him to pursue a career path more suitable towards his likening, and causing him to miss out on a second toy. 

Stephane Tarnier, in the 1870’s, utilized the low-threshold environment of Materité de Paris, to welcome in an innovative creation that halved the mortality rate for infants of that time. 

Inspired by a local zoo, Tarnier managed to stumble across an exhibit of chicken eggs inside an incubator, according to Steven Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From.” 

Albeit Tarnier’s knowledge of the French medical establishment’s scrutiny over statistics, he built a device that was warmed by hot water bottles and wooden boxes that dramatically changed the world of medicine forever. 

Throughout the years to come after, improvements were definitely modified. However, the concept of a human incubator would not have ever existed if there were no low-threshold indicators to spark a circumstantial situation that would later improve the whole world. 

Therefore we could agree that the low-threshold of Tarnier’s environment, successfully adopted a new method of innovation that to this very day is impacting his environment positively, as well as the world’s today. 

Even though both negative and positive benefits of having a low-threshold has been illustrated, let me enlighten you with a few more examples:

Mark Granovetter, nearly forty years ago, gave illustration to his definition of a low-threshold. He give examples in the form of a riot starter having a threshold of zero. 

The individual that follows next exhibits a threshold of one because it took one person to initiate that person to join in, and the numbers then continues in that fashion. The person with a zero threshold is willing to perhaps throw a rock through a window at the slightest hint of provocation, according to Granovetter. 

So a person with a low-threshold is easily provoked to react without giving consideration to consequences, due to “daring masculine acts brings status, and reluctance to join, once others have, carries the high cost of being labeled a sissy,” according to a statement given by Granovetter. 

Therefore, having a low-threshold individual present in any situational circumstance which may possibly provoke a reaction of response, is equivalent to a lit dynamite stick. They’re both adopting an instant gratification that will ultimately defuse into chaos. 

Altogether, having a low-threshold isn’t always a negative, and it’s not always a positive. It’s something that lies in the middle. Nevertheless, it’s the negatives that usually illuminate themselves as infamous indicators of a low-threshold more than the positives. But hey, isn’t that with almost everything in life, always finding and illuminating the negatives? 

Nevertheless, we should consider broadening our minds to the possibilities of having a low-threshold individual amongst our presence, because some circumstances are not meant to always have high-threshold individuals. 

A protest is a perfect example. Without a low-threshold individual of zero, there’s no one that will potentially join in, allowing the numbers to escalate. 

Therefore it’s fair to say, a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover; rather, the concept that’s within. The same applies for low-threshold individuals, even though having a nature that’s easily provoked to bring about a reaction that could have a negative or perhaps a positive result.