When I have sought a metaphor for creativity I have often conjured up the image of a great river; ever present, always flowing, teeming with potential ideas, thoughts and creations. We, the artists, dancers, musicians, writers...we can choose to stand on shore and cast our lines and nets or we can craft a boat and launch ourselves into the water. We can learn to navigate the river, discover its deep, slow spots or if brave enough, ride the rapids, casting our lines and nets as we go, learning the places where our great ideas hide. Like any fishermen we learn that we must visit the river regularly if we are to keep ourselves fed. We also learn when we need to make camp upon the shore again, to watch the water and the other boats pass by.
I also at times see creativity as fire. I like the image of fire because while the river implies something that exists that we must seek out, fire can be created by our own hand.
In the literal sense fire is something that needs to be fed regularly if one wants to keep warm. Even on those days when we may not want to get out of bed to pile more wood upon the coals we must or the air will chill, the pipes will freeze and worse, the fire will go out an need to be rekindled from scratch. Fire is also something that is contained to keep it safe. Warming your house with a pile of wood on the living room floor will keep you warm, for a time, until your house burns down and you are left homeless in the cold. Putting fire in a safe container allows us to benefit from its light and heat without turning our homes to ash and keeps the coals alive and ready for new fuel.
Creating art in any form requires that same balance of fuel, discipline and containment. We must feed our creative fires by seeking out new experiences, learning new techniques, experiencing the work of others, and practice. We must also have discipline in that not only must we find the best fuel to help our fire burn its brightest we have to do it regularly...even when we don't want to. In other words, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, pra...you get the idea. Finally we contain it in some way by choosing a creative path to follow so that we may master it. While many of us creative types have multiple creative fires there are probably only one or two of those fires that burn brightly enough to keep us warm.
I hold both of the images in my mind together. Creativity flows and it burns but whether water or flame it still requires regular tending. We cannot become a master of our various arts without regular practice. We must continually paddle its waters if we are to learn to navigate it, we must keep it fed if we are to keep warm at its hearth. Even when the last thing we want to do is get our feet wet or creep out from our cozy beds...or write a blog post every day for one month.
PS - This post was somewhat inspired by thoughts brought to mind by this blog post: Practice 101: Improve Your Brain While Becoming Awesome which was brought to my attention by Aepril Schaile (who is also awesome)