Today I’m going to teach you a class that I’ll bet you missed in high school biology: The reproduction of creativity. (Don’t worry. This isn’t the sort of class where boys and girls need to have separate classrooms. This is all for one because creativity is, thankfully, gender neutral.)
I tend to think of my creativity/imagination like a pet. Granted, it’s not a very well-trained pet and it leaves a lot of messes around the house. Still, it requires careful feeding and care if I expect it to do anything other than lie there and look at me like, “Yeah, what do you want?”
One of the things I’ve learned from treating my imagination as a living being is that creativity has a reproductive cycle. Just like any other living thing, your creativity has a biological imperative to reproduce. That’s how it gets noticed and creates more great ideas. Ignore this urge at your peril. If you don’t give your creativity what it wants, it will leave to find a new partner. (There’s nothing worse than knowing your creativity is cheating with the author down the block because you wouldn’t give it what it wanted. You’ll know it’s cheating on you when you see other authors writing the stories you once longed to write, or turning your half-baked ideas into full novels.)
Yet we seem to do everything we can to neuter our creativity. We drown it in useless crap from the internet and TV. We don’t fuel it with solid nutrition, proper sleep, or exercise. Negative people, lack of fresh air and stimulation, the nightly news, drugs, booze, anger, and stress all serve to kill the sex drive of your creativity. Just like your own sex drive suffers without proper care, your creativity can’t perform when you subject it to poor treatment.
There is good news, though. You can improve your creativity’s reproductive capability. (And you don’t need a prescription for a little blue pill.) All you need to do is use your creativity.
Creativity begets more creativity, so use it or lose it.
Ever notice how the more sex you have, the more sex you want? (And if you’re not careful, the more sex you have, the more frequently you reproduce?) Creativity is no different. When you use it, you want more of it and it makes more of itself. If you don’t use it, it dries up, puts on its pajamas, and refuses to even think about joining you for date night.
That’s what we’re dealing with. The solution? Use your creativity and imagination. Do it every day. If your creativity knows you’re hungry for it, it comes out to play more often. When it figures it will be ignored, it doesn’t even bother to brush its teeth or shave its legs.
You don’t have to make this some big production (reproduction?) either. Using your creativity can be as simple as adding a new ingredient to a tried and true recipe, or going outside and looking for animals in the clouds. Take a new route to work and see what you see. Go to the mall and people watch. Play with your kid’s toys. There are plenty of things you can do to boost your creativity that don’t take a lot of time or cost any money.
In the case of writers, just write nonsense if you have to. Write a story you know is stupid or silly. No one has to know. Dabble in poetry, or write something completely out of your comfort zone. Doodle in your notebook, throw your characters under the bus, or work on a Pinterest board for your current project. Go old school and cut pictures out of magazines to make a collage if you have to. Hell, go outside and poke something with a stick just to see what happens and then write a story about that. (I’d advise sticking to things like rocks or frogs. Getting bitten by a rabid raccoon isn’t very creative.)
Remember: Your creativity is a kind and benevolent lover. It wants you to have a good time.
Even the simplest step can signal to your creativity that you’re ready to go all the way. And when it knows you’re open to more, that’s when the fireworks happen. When your imagination knows you’re ready to play, it serves up the big ideas. Major plot points and characters, marketing strategies, even whole novels get delivered in big orgasmic bangs when your creativity knows you find it desirable and exciting.
But this only happens when both of you are enjoying yourself and wrapped up in an equal partnership. If you’re not receptive, creativity tends to find someone who is. If you’re too needy and whiny (“Please love me! I’m on a deadline and I neeeed you!), you’ll scare your creativity away. As with sex, the more you practice, the better you get. And the better you get, the more fun you have. It’s a continuous circle. If you break that circle, don’t expect it to be easy to get back in the sack with your creativity. You’ll have to re-earn its affection and roses won’t help. Winning back your creativity is a long, difficult process and you may not succeed.
Just remember this: Creativity and imagination want to love and be loved. They want a monogamous relationship with you. They want to give you all the good ideas, more than you could use in your lifetime because that’s how they reproduce and get noticed. But if you neglect them and treat them poorly, they’ll dump you. Relationship over. And you’ll be all alone, looking for ideas in all the wrong places.
(Photo courtesy of ADD)