Some months ago I read a book about creativity. It was called “Big Magic”, written by the Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. In her book she took a fairy tale approach to creativity in which there is room for magic and mystery. Not everything has to be scientifically explained. The part of the book that most stuck with me was the following thought: what if ideas have consciousness and will of their own? What if they wander around trying to get someone’s attention and if that someone is alert and aware, the idea is realized through them.
Now let’s imagine that the above is true. Ideas are fragile beings and when ignored, they move on to pick someone else’s brain. I have had this one particular idea for a very long time and even though I’ve mistreated it various times, it keeps on coming back. But then again, I have never told it to go away. On the contrary, each time I have developed it a little further. And then dumped it again. The idea must feel miserable — like it would be dating a person who is unable to make a real commitment but still wants to keep it close. A total mindfuck really.
Many of my previous ideas, particularly when related to business or new experiences, have caused me to romanticize the future at the expense of the present moment. “Then when this idea is finished…”. By doing this, I have yet again mistreated an idea. I rushed and forgot to listen. The creative process — and it is a process, not a project — didn’t have enough time to evolve. When this has happened, I’ve had to take a look in the mirror and ask: “how did this idea become mine in the first place?” Did I take charge and somehow accidentally tricked the idea to like me? Or even worse, did I change myself so the idea would fit me better? Because if yes, no wonder the idea is reluctant to work with me.
Nowadays I’m more careful with taking charge and believe that if an idea is for me, it’ll let me know. Like this one particular idea, it must really like me as it keeps on coming back, even after various times of dumping it. Or then it’s just plain stupid. Either way, like many of my previous ideas, also this one romanticizes the future at the expense of the present. And I don’t like it. I don’t like the growing tightness in my chest which happens with over-planning. That, if anything, kills creativity and sure doesn’t leave room for surprises.
There are a few times and places in the past when I’ve felt like I’m just where I’m supposed to be, despite all the incompleteness of life. There might be chaos around me, but at the same time there is an exceptional inner calmness and focus. It’s like time would stop. And I can tell you, that feeling never happens when I’m rushing or planning the future. So, what to do with this one particular idea? Not sure yet, but if it really does have a will of its own, it might do the decision for me. Maybe there is someone else who needs it more.