Ever produce work and believe you’ll never have another worthy idea again or that, no matter what, that one piece must represent your success? It’s your baby, after all. Countless people have trapped themselves into believing they’ve extracted the last bucket of water before the well runs dry.
Not true. Let’s flip it around and examine a few what ifs:
• Van Gogh paints his first picture and refuses to paint another because he spends the rest of his life trying to sell that first one. A Starry Night doesn’t follow.
• After the Beatles first single, Love Me Do, fails to go to #1 they spend the rest of their time together relentlessly touring in an effort to sell more copies of that minor hit.
• Determined to market his first work, Michelangelo ceases to pursue other projects. The Sistine Chapel and David never happen.
Yeah, those sound absurd, like me clinging to the epic fantasy novel I labored over for five years. I clung to it and, over time, the determination to make it work became fear. Had I expended my ideas? I stagnated. In August 2015 I wrote a short story and realized the well wasn’t dry. That September I wrote another two. In November, after completing a new fantasy novel during NaNo, I drafted eight more.
Yesterday, I finished drafting my 26th short story, Hope at the Edge, since beginning The Border on August 14th, 2015. That’s 26 short stories in less than a year. That’s 117,113 words!
No one’s creative well is dry unless they believe it is. I’ve boiled down the six reasons I didn’t run out of ideas. Some are realizations. Others were changes in my life I made for other reasons that also helped. There’s overlap because LIFE is ideas.
• Actively stimulating the mind. Seek out experiences. Read—everything. Experience nature, a city street, the park, or the mall. Observe people. Listen to music. Study art. Attend theatre. Pursue other creative endeavors (photography for me, sometimes drawing). Yeah, even television and movies help. Video games. Devour it all.
• Consciously experiencing the whole of life. Don’t just absorb the general, but examine the details. Seems elementary, but too much bounces off us. Look up from your phone. Live mindfully. Every experience, good or bad, is the seed of an idea. Filter what you’re experiencing through your emotions and make it your own. Singular ideas become a multitude colliding to create what no one else has imagined.
• Managing your health and reducing your stress levels. Stress can be the equivalent of blinders. Simplify life. Exercise. Eat healthy. Get enough sleep. Not only does stress distract us, but it leads to health problems that become their own distractions.
• Declutter your mind so the ideas aren’t lost in the swirling chaos. Practice mindfulness and meditation. Any pursuit that helps to focus your thoughts is also a way to align your thinking so what you’ve learned isn’t lost. Pursue other art. Sports. Yoga. Quiet walks. Even crosswords and word searches help. Let the snow in the globe settle.
• Snagging those ideas. Don’t assume they’ll stick around so you can improve on them later. Before you move onto something else write them done. Manipulate, mold, and meld them. There’s no excuse for letting ideas get away. Besides notebooks and small writing pads that fit everywhere, there’s the technological diversity that exists in phones and tablets.
• Create. Don’t ever stop! This sounds like of course!, but it’s amazing how often humans turn off the spigot because the spigot might turn off (Sound like clinging to one work?). Allow yourself to make bad art. Allow yourself to create and never stop. What’s that mean for writers? Blog posts. A journal. Free writing. Poetry. Flash fiction. Short stories. Experiment and diversify, even if you never use it.
Basically, if you live then the creative well lives. These points are interrelated and expansive. I could have made this list 50 points long with little effort, each a separate topic. Regardless, first and foremost, you must be receptive. Just as you are what you believe, the number of ideas you possess is restricted to the number you assign.
Is your number one? Or is it infinity?