Where does creativity come from? Where do ideas come from?
When I sat down to write this month’s blog, I was really stumped for a topic. I had attempted to define creativity and show how writing is affected by it in previous posts. Where did I go from there? A week went by and I had no answer. Then, a good friend talked about Pinterest. She said that while some people say it’s a waste of time, she gets ideas there. That was the inspiration for the topic this month: inspiration.
Most writers know that you may have an idea of what you are going to write about, but once you sit down to write, ideas come to you unbidden. Is there a pot somewhere inside of you where ideas are stored, or is the idea bubbling up from all human consciousness? Or some other source that no one really knows about?
One of my quilts used a pattern I had gotten in 2002, when visiting my daughter at Lawrence University. I began cutting the background squares in January, several years ago. I put it away when spring came, and inadvertently put the pattern between the pages of a book. The next January, I got the squares out, but could not find the pattern. I decided to go to Pinterest to create my own snowmen. I was amazed at the number of different snowmen available. A snowman is from one to three white balls and some odds and ends, yet I saved 31 distinct links, ignoring hundreds of others. I then found the original pattern and used it instead of creating my own. Halfway through the quilt I decided it was boring, so I added more interesting fabric and changed half of the snowmen's orientation and facial features.
Inspiration can be trivial, as with the snowmen, or vital, as with great thinkers of our time. Some of my favorites are Jesus Christ, the Buddha, Muhammad, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Merton, and many poets and writers. It can come from friends discussing fart spray in a book group (The Righteous Mind), or strangers on the train.
Inspiration can come from outside. In my annual examination for prevention of melanoma, my dermatologist told me I have a normal geography of the skin, listing the bumps and moles as she examined them. This is a great idea for a poem, which would be different for each person who chose to write about it.
In my summer school classes, gifted children are taught a basic skill such as programming or sewing. They seldom need encouragement to come up with ideas for projects. In fact, their ideas are usually far beyond their ability. They all love Strandbeests and art quilts.
I once wrote a poem using a dream. I was living on a farm, and in the dream I was driving on a dirt road in the country near the ocean. Ahead was a shining city, and a traveler stood by the side of the road. I said, “That’s where I’m going.” The reply was, “Don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way.” I have since found my way to the big city, but that dream is a fond memory.
Great music, conversations overheard, and hooves on pavement create powerful stimuli to open our minds. Christine Swanberg recently reminded Poets and Patrons that a simple phrase, such as, “Whenever I hear…” can take us out of our routine and open our minds to new ideas.
Perhaps the strongest sense for memories is smell. When I moved back to the Chicago area, I went into my mother’s bedroom for something. I opened the bottle of Wind Song perfume and smelled it. I was instantly taken back in memory to my childhood. The bushes in the back yard were smaller and there was no fence as I stood there, transported back decades. I will always associate that smell with her, just as I will always associate Chanel No. 5 with my first husband. I had never had such expensive perfume.
Inspiration can be visual, auditory, or intrapersonal in nature, Where does creativity originate? I don’t think anyone really knows. That may take another blog post. Meanwhile, pay attention to the inspiration in your life. It’s free and abundant.