I was sitting at my desk a few minutes ago writing, doors open, dogs sleeping quietly in the room when suddenly there was a large BANG, jolting me out of my seat, waking up the dogs and causing the adrenaline to pump for all of us. There’s some construction happening just down the street and apparently a front loader dropped a big steel plate onto the ground. It’s taken us all a little bit to regulate ourselves and settled back into our routine, but it definitely shook us all awake for a few minutes.
I think we often expect creativity to be like that. We’re standing around in our lives watching and waiting for the big bang of creative insight to happen. It doesn’t matter if it’s the perfect, chart-topping song, the ultimate invention that everyone will want or the ideal phrase for a closing argument that will sway the jury in the right direction – we often think if we just wait long enough…BANG! It will come to us in a brilliant flash of insight.
Occasionally, it does happen that way. And just like my experience this morning, bangs of creativity can leave the creator disoriented and hopped up on the adrenal rush for awhile – which is not a way to create consistent, creative flow.
Creativity is usually much more like a whisper. Maybe you’re at a loss on a plot point for your novel. Until you figure it out, you’re really kind of stuck. So you tinker with it- you show up at the page consistently and try a few things – nothing really works. Finally, maybe in the shower or on a walk or sitting on the back porch watching the birds at the feeder, something in your brain catches your attention. You can’t really make it out at first, but the more you quiet yourself and listen, the easier it is to piece together the whispered thoughts and suddenly, that’s it! You can see how everything fits together clearly. In those moments, you suddenly gain momentum and can keep moving forward- there is nothing unsettling to recover from. Your creativity is flowing forward and you are being pulled along for the ride.
It’s hard to wait for the whisper because the bang is so flashy and bold. “Here I am! Pay attention to me!” it announces. The whisper of creativity sits quietly in the corner waiting for you to notice it. But it’s always the stronger ally in the end.
When I was a child, I learned a Bible story about the prophet Elijah. He was told to go up a mountain into a cave and wait for God to speak to him. First came a great wind, but Elijah did not hear the voice of God in the wind. Next came a powerful earthquake, but again, no voice. Then Elijah watched as a large fire burned everything around his cave – but still nothing. Finally, the world around him got very quiet. Only then was Elijah able to hear God’s voice whispering his name. Creativity works exactly like this. It seems like we should be able to find it in the flash, the larger-than-life, the Big Bang! But it’s not there at all.
Creativity is whispering your name. Quiet yourself to see what it’s got in store for you.