Consider a tree. Nourished and nurtured and planted in fertile soil, it can flourish and tower and bear remarkable fruits. Neglected and sheltered and forgotten about, it withers and crumbles and gets overrun with ivy or tree cancer or tree-eating beetles or something horrifying like that.
Just so with the creative brain. Given room to grow, freedom of expression, and a steady diet of inspirational art, the brain grows stronger, desires to create for itself, and spawns incredible creations. Left to fester, the brain shuts down, gives up, stops trying.
Creativity must be tended, just like a tree, or that crappy vegetable garden my wife and I tried to plant a few years ago. We didn’t know anything about anything when it came to growing actual food, and figured, you know, the human race has been handling this gardening thing for millennia; how hard can it be, right? Bloody hard, as it turns out; not to mention the fact that neither of us actually has the patience or the drive to actually maintain the thing. What, you mean it takes more than a sunny spot, a few holes in the ground, and some foolish optimism to grow food in your backyard? To hell with that!
But of course it does. You’ve got to monitor that crap. Track the pH levels in the dirt. measure the amount of water in the soil. Pull weeds. You know. Effing work at it.
And if not tended properly? Those fruits wither on the vine, or worse, they shrivel up and die before their tiny little seeds can even germinate.
And so it is with creativity. Ask any writer or artist or whatever where their ideas come from, and their answer will probably be something like: it’s not finding the ideas that’s hard, it’s deciding which ones are worth my time that’s difficult. I’m not even that much of a writer, and still the thought will cross my mind at least once a week — sometimes once a day! — hey, I should write a story about this or that would make a really cool turn in my novel or man, I wish I’d had that idea three months ago on that other project.
But these ideas are like the produce at Aldi: they have an expiration date measured in hours, not days. Your brain serves them up from wherever ideas come from. (The black hole in the back of your brain? The quantum tunnel that connects your brain to every other brain in the world? Narnia?) They land on the shelf where your conscious mind peers at and ponders over them like an aging bachelorette on a diet. And whichever ideas don’t get put in the cart? Whichever ones don’t get spun pretty quickly into tonight’s dinner or slapped into the deep-freeze of your ever-expanding Evernote file? They go brown, they turn spotty, and they end up in the dumpster out back.
Which is fine and natural (not the exorbitant amount of food waste in our country, of course — but the life cycle of ideas). A few bananas go bad — it’s no big deal, the grocery store knows it’s gonna sell more bananas. But those kiwis? Those mangoes that look so good but taste so bad? The more they rot, the less the store wants to put them on the shelf.
But your brain works the same way. It serves up these fantastic ideas day after day, week after week, and the more you don’t do anything with them? The more they expire, unused, on the shelf?
The less your brain is going to serve them up.
This is why I try to write, at least a little bit, every single day. The more I write, the more I notice my good ideas when they crop up — and the more, it seems, I have to choose from.
Your creativity — your good ideas — they have an expiration date.
Waste not, want not.
This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.