Ever made a campfire?
I was never a boy scout but I dabbled enough in the great wild outback of, um, the woods at the edge of our village to know what it takes to light and keep alight a campfire.
And the simple yet immense pleasure it brings.
Getting it started though is far more difficult than keeping the flames gently licking after it is alight.
Once that familiar gentle pop and crackle teases your ears, once that irreplaceable warm glow caresses your toes, and once that unmistakeable earthy woodsmoke scent fills your nostrils, all you have to do is add a couple of logs every now and then, and sit back, relax and start toasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate. Bliss…
It’s as simple and relaxing as creating art.
Oh, but hang on. Lately, trying to create your art has been anything BUT simple and relaxing.
It’s been not so much a delicious indulgence around a comforting campfire but a fear driven frantic pelt through the woods chased by a grizzly bear. Whose breakfast you just stole. Scary!
So how can we reconnect with the soft warm glow of our creativity?
How can we return to those comforting carefree times, and keep those fires of our imagination crackling bravely and boldly?
Think of it like this:
If you wanted to have hot water on tap by your campfire, the most efficient way of doing it would be to fill a small pot, lower it over the fire until it was boiling, then raise it and keep it at just the right height to stay at a good temperature.
In the meantime, you’d add that occasional log to keep the fire below blazing away. And you’d top up the water now and then too, maybe from another larger container beside you, so you always had a full pot hot and ready. Again, relatively easy and low maintenance.
What you wouldn’t do, is every time you wanted a cup of tea or chocolate, get a huge ten gallon pot of cold water, drag it to a new area of the forest, build a campfire from scratch, heat the pot over the fire for the hour it might take to boil, then when it was ready, pour out your single mug of drink, put out the fire and throw the rest of the boiling water away. Before collapsing into your sleeping bag, too tired to even raise your mug, let alone enjoy your drink.
Then, the next time you wanted a drink, go through the entire process from scratch again!
This would be a crazily inefficient, time consuming and exhausting way of approaching such a simple task.
Yet this is exactly the kind of crazily inefficient, time consuming and exhausting approach we often take when we try to create.
We don’t create little and often, keeping our imaginations thriving and inspired, ensuring our little creative campfires are burning, our water pots gently bubbling.
Instead, we decide that after not creating anything for weeks on end we’re going to take on a huge and complex new project headfirst.
We throw ourselves into it, and usually before too long feel completely exhausted and overwhelmed.
Even if our creative flame catches light briefly in the early stages, it’s soon snuffed out by the enormity of the task. Like trying to bring that ten gallon pot to boil with a single candle, damp matches and a strong headwind.
The more regularly we can exercise and flex our creativity, the stronger it becomes.
We don’t need to start with a huge bonfire, we just need to get a tiny little campfire burning, then nurture and be attentive to it, and slowly add a little more wood a time.
Little and often, just enough to keep that pot simmering away.
The best way to do this?
You don’t need anything more sophisticated than this 3 step plan to guide you:
1. Put aside 15 minutes in your schedule to create something today.
2. Remove all distractions, set a timer, and create for that 15 minutes.
3. Repeat steps 1 to 3 tomorrow.
Creating a little each day is the ultimate creative secret than any of us can start discovering here, today, right now.
So, are you ready to put your feet up by the campfire and dunk your toasted marshmallows in that delicious hot chocolate? I knew you would be.
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