There’s a small town in the backwoods of America that many years ago was overwhelmed with birds.
No-one could explain where the birds came from, or why they came. All the inhabitants knew was that the birds were there, and there in their tens of thousands.
The settlement had around 100 buildings, mostly homes, plus three small stores.
The telephone lines were old even before the birds came, and had been patched up dozens of times, so if you stood outside any building in the town and looked up, you’d see a frayed, sprawling web of tired cable criss-crossing the streets.
When the birds arrived that late summer afternoon, they flocked to the phone lines, and perched wherever they could find a space.
Some of the lines began sagging so deeply you could’ve reached up and touched them with your fingers.
Others collapsed immediately, unable to take the weight.
One by one, the remaining lines began to fray, then break, and the town’s communication with the outside world – wire by wire, telephone by telephone, home by home – began to falter, then completely disconnect.
That evening, only hours after the birds came, the streets were strewn with broken cables, all laying limp and half coiled in the dry dirt.
Occasional sparks spat from the top of the remaining lines up in the poles, showering the darkening sky.
The scene was startling.
If you’d have been there, you would have witnessed the disintegration of a community’s connection to the rest of the world, spark by spark, fallen cable by fallen cable.
One, or two, or even one or two dozen birds, couldn’t have done much damage to the town’s telephone lines. But in their masses, the destruction was devastating.
What happened next though was even more remarkable.
The next day, the people of the town came out in to the streets – their streets – and set to work in clearing up and attempting to repair the damage.
People who had not spoken in years, people who lived only a few doors away but had never shared a single word, people who were virtual strangers in the same town, all united for the same purpose.
When they returned back to their homes, still no-one could make any calls to anyone outside of the town, so they had to communicate with those around them, in person, face to face, with family and friends, old and new.
Many began inviting their neighbours in too, and shared food, stories and memories.
Eventually, weeks later, when the cables were all fixed and the birds long gone, the community did not retreat back behind closed doors and twitching curtains. They didn’t revert back to being strangers in the same town.
They began to form small groups and associations and clubs.
There was one for quilt making, who would meet every other Tuesday, run by a woman whose family going back three generations were renowned seamstresses.
Another group formed for carpentry, led by two brothers who had been making wooden objects longer than they’d been able to hold a pencil.
Yet another was started for outdoor pursuits like hiking, fishing and simple survival techniques, by a couple who virtually lived off the land up in the Northern most house of the town.
The increase in communication within the town – and within each house within the town – continued, as people found new common ground, new stimulation, new friendships.
What’s the moral of the story, and what does it have to do with you and being more creative?
It took what seemed like a disaster for the people of that town to realise that some of the most important communications they could have were amongst themselves.
They took what they had, opened their doors, opened their arms and began to share, to communicate. To really communicate, not just nod or pay lip service.
It was only by the forced disconnection from the outside world and all its often unnecessary distractions, that they could truly start to connect with each other.
Think about your creative life.
Think about your relationship with the creativity that’s within you.
How often do you feel truly connected to your creativity? How often, and how deeply, do you feel connected to the source of your creative work?
How much of your time do you spend chasing surface external distractions – that are largely irrelevant and unimportant – instead of disconnecting with those and reconnecting with yourself and your creativity?
When you allow yourself to be distracted from creating what’s most important to you once or twice, here and there, the impact is minimal.
But succumb to it more and more often, and one day you suddenly wake up and realise your days are hurtling by and you’ve not created anything meaningful in weeks, months, or years.
Don’t let this happen in your life. Don’t wait for the birds to come to save you.
Don’t become disconnected from your own creativity.
If you fear it’s already started to happen, then make steps to change it.
Right now would be a good time to commit to a practice of daily disconnection.
Yes, every day.
Lock yourself away, remove all distractions, and get down to that glorious, burning work you need to create.
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