Happy Sunday, Everyone! I hope you’re enjoying the weekend!
If you hang around with writers for a long enough time, chances are you’ll hear one of us talk about refilling the Creative Well.
But what are we talking about, really?
From here on out, the usual caveat applies: What follows are my thoughts on the particular topic. Your mileage may – and likely will – vary.
So: The Creative Well.
When someone asks a writer “Where do you get your ideas?” you’re bound to hear a variety of answers. Some will say that they don’t know, some will say they come from everywhere, one of these times I’m going to say that I keep a stash of them in a chest, buried under a rock in my back yard.
Ultimately, I think, that the real answer – even for the folks that respond with “I don’t know” – is the Creative Well.
Now I’m not talking about a real well, although that may be the form it takes in your mind when you think about it.
It may be a conventional well, or something out in the deep woods somewhere, in a clearing, waiting for someone to come along.
It’s your well, you can picture it however you like. It’s where the magic happens.
For me, the Creative Well is more like a Cauldron. Just as a well that isn’t deep enough to reach the water table is, basically, just a hole in the ground (Yes, there’s a lot to unpack in that analogy, and I’m still not sure where I stand on it). A cauldron, without anything in it, isn’t all that interesting. It’s just a hunk of metal sitting on the fire, getting hot, but otherwise not doing much. It’s when you start adding stuff to your cauldron that things start happening.
So where do you get this stuff? Part of it, I believe is from you, so as long as you’re alive, the cauldron won’t ever be entirely empty. I can get pretty low though, if you don’t take care of yourself, and the stuff that you’re scraping off the bottom might not be the most palatable. Another source of stuff that goes in the cauldron comes from everyday life. Being a person. All of your experiences, your ups, and downs, all of it goes in. Additionally, the things you consume – books, music, movies, etc – constitute a big part of what goes in the cauldron.
Now it’s not going in there untreated. Everything you put in there has your own particular stamp on it. It passes through the lens of how you see the world – your own blend of secret spices that nobody else has the recipe for.
It all goes in there and, occasionally, something bubbles to the surface. That’s something that you can spoon out and use. The other stuff is still cooking.
That’s kinda why I don’t write ideas down. When I get an idea, I’ll put it in the cauldron, give it a stir, and see what rises. Might be that nothing comes to the surface right away. Might be that the idea that went in, comes out altered by having spent some time in the creative stew.
But you can only withdraw stuff from the cauldron for so long before you’ve got to start putting stuff back in.
That’s where the reading, the watching, the getting out in the world and walking it for a spell, comes into play. You’ve got to go out and get ingredients, otherwise, eventually, all you’ll be spooning out will be one-note, cauldron-wall, soup, a bare step above water, or light beer.
And nobody wants that.
So get out there. Find the best ingredients you can, the stuff that turns your dials up to 11, and toss them in.
See what bubbles to the surface.
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I’ll see you again for the next Five-Thing Thursday!