Theoretically speaking


Word count: 318                                                                                       Reading time: 1 minute +

When I first confided to a photographer friend that I had started writing fiction, he shook his head.

“An accountant? Writing fiction?” he said. “I don’t know about that combination.”

I was confident enough to ignore his doubt and charge on through. I figured out back in grade 8 or so that math demands a lot of imaginative problem-solving. Furthermore, anyone who has ever tried to tame the complex tendrils of a business operation into the few thin lines of a balance sheet knows how much creative thinking is involved.

Recently I watched Constraints and Creativity in Mathematics and Fiction, by Dr. Hannu Rajaniemi author of The Quantum Thief. Rajaniemi says that mathematics and writing both create something out of nothing. He urges writers to consider the parallels. Both mathematics and writing:

  • are not about the numbers,
  • conceive of different realities,
  • look at the relationship between the imaginary things and draw conclusions from what is studied and
  • should create something beautiful.

After I watched the video I lost myself down a rabbit hole, looking at relationships between mathematics and art. I discovered that because mathematics is the basis of all sound, music theorists often use it to understand music. Mathematics and visual art have a relationship that dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks who defined the golden ratio to describe something that was aesthetically pleasing.

I’m not saying that all mathematicians can be writers (or painters or musicians) or vice versa. I’m suggesting that creativity is a force that once unleashed in one area of our lives will spill into all others. And let’s face it, a huge part of creativity is just hard work, lots of practice, and a mountain of perseverance.

What outside, non-core skills have helped your writing? Were you a midwife or a soldier before you picked up a pen? How have creative habits from another discipline advanced your development?


Photo by: Alan Bolitho