This article first appeared in the July 2013 issue of the Creativity Coaching Association newsletter.
A perfect day is walking along the beach. The familiar and constant, yet ever changing, ocean is comforting. And gathering rocks and shells is so relaxing.
These are the ocean’s gifts to us, carried in wave after wave as it rushes onto shore. Here are the irresistible pink, lavender, gray, and ivory colors; the odd shapes; the jagged edges; the ridged and rippled surfaces.
Sometimes, these treasures are found easily, glistening in the sun. Other times, they are buried in the sand.
Isn’t the creative process like this?
Inspiration comes and goes, ebbs and flows just like the ocean, but it never goes completely away. It contains the gift of creative ideas. All we have to do grab our pail of curiosity and set off to explore, to observe carefully, and to listen attentively.
At times, our search for ideas seems easy, finding just what we’re looking for. If we’re lucky, we may even find an idea that’s fully formed, like a whole perfect shell on the beach. But many times, our exploration starts with sweeping away the gritty sand of doubt and fear.
Then, just like gathering shells, we collect bits and pieces of colors, shapes, words, emotions, lines of dialogue, photos, ticket stubs – anything and everything – that we tuck away in a box, a journal, a notebook, or a drawer.
We don’t know how these disparate things will go together or even if any of it can be formed into a cohesive whole. What we do know is that we must have all of them. They stir a memory, a deep feeling in us. They speak to our heart and prick our imagination.
We store everything away until one day we pour the contents of the box, notebook or desk drawer out onto a table, just like we do with those buckets of shells. We sort through the fascinating, the odd, the beautiful searching for tiny sparks that can be ignited into creative flames. Arranging and rearranging over and over until our creative vision springs to life and we bring a story, picture, song, or dance into being as the ocean of inspiration continues to flow within us.