"A Study of Two Minds"

research paper form + narrative, 2020

"A Study of Two Minds"

Background:

 

You’re young when storytelling hooks you—six-years-old and reality already bores you. You immerse yourself in your own imagination because of where you can go, what you can do, how you can feel, but overwhelmingly because of who you can be.

The storyverse is your childhood love. The first scribbles of black ink you put on paper bleed through the fifth wall and spread like wildfire across the fabric of your life, birthing an obsession that makes you write during every waking moment and sleep with the silhouettes of your characters still dancing against your eyelids. 

 

You’re a little older when you find research. Like a mentor, research trains you—carves discipline and rigor into your free-floating curiosity. It gives your imagination skeleton, your stories correctness, your creations utility. 

 

Your first love and your mentor don’t get along. 

You tell too many stories to be a scientist, you analyze too much data to be an artist. 

You don’t belong here, both sides say. 

Your ideas are too flexible and too rigid—your methods too abnormal, your style too algorithmic. 

 

You are boxed in and boxed out all at once.


 

Problem: 

 

Two roads diverge in a restless mind, 

One of sound and color, love and hate,

Running from monsters, saving mankind,

The other of structure and growth rate, 

Steps 1-2-3, all perfectly timed… 


 

Objective: 

 

You must choose.


 

Methods:

 

  1. As the action rises, you watch the world balkanize all around you—at school, lunch tables split into “artsy-kids” and “STEM-nerds”; at home, your engineer parents roll their eyes at your foreign stories, and you remember: 

    1. Years ago, you were also torn between two identities—as an American kid in a Chinese home, a Chinese kid in an American school. Your unpatriotic love of American cheese disgusted your parents; the smell of your la-mian lunches disgusted your peers. Underneath the skin, it was your mindset, behavior, values that never sat quite right with either side.

  2. As the action rises in the war inside your head, you are surrounded by a pressure that simultaneously suffocates you and pulls you apart. 

    1. This is the same kind of pressure that had suffocated you as an American in a Chinese home, a Chinese in an American school—beyond your food and language and skin-color, it was your mindset, behavior, values that never sat quite right with either side.

    2. You remember the shame and confusion of desperately wanting to be both, yet belonging to neither. Of being stuck in an infinite loop—fabricating and shedding identity each time you cross the threshold between home and school, lab and writers’ group.

  3. This is the kind of pressure born of compartmentalization, of border-drawing, of bubbles, walls, ceilings—the kind made of stereotypes and skewed statistics, but precluded by nuance and rigorous analysis.

  4. You write more, you research more.

    1. You start with a story idea, research idea, learn about the background.

    2. You create an outline, create a research plan. Write, perform experiments.

    3. Experiments go wrong, plot-holes surface.

    4. You rewrite, redesign, reperform. Time after time—redesign, reperform, rewrite.

    5. You write more.

    6. You do more research.

    7. You start with a story idea, research idea, learn about the background.

    8. You create an outline, create a research plan. Write, perform experiments.

    9. Experiments go wrong, plot-holes surface.

    10. You rewrite, redesign, reperform. Time after time—redesign, reperform, rewrite.


 

Data Analysis: 

 

You fuse words into sentences into paragraphs into novels—arranging meaningless strokes to create meaning. You bond monomers into polymers into nanostructures into photonic materials—assembling colorless molecules to produce color. 

 

Waves of light, as they interact with tiny structures, split up, interfere with each other, and come out the other end—some intensified, some dulled. Characters, as they navigate complex crises, part ways, interfere with each other, and come out the other end—changed. 

 

Like fractals, these parallels emerge at different levels of abstraction, and in this new dimension—at the climax of creativity—you rediscover, redefine yourself.  

 

Conclusions: 

 

Two roads diverged in a mind, and you—

You took both, you took neither, you made a third. 

You entered the intersection, where boxes and definitions blur into unity, where contrast amplifies into synergy, where you exist as a superposition. 

 

Future Research: 

 

Yet the intersection is far from idyllic—where knowledge and skillsets may complement, methods and mindsets conflict. Combinations of science and art often emerge stunted, casuistic, dissonant. 

 

There is much work to be done. And you have come to the resolution that this is where your future lies—rewriting mindsets, redesigning approaches, bringing ostensibly different people and pieces of ourselves together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.