Part I: In Which I Lose My Spark
There was a time when writing came easily to me. There was a time–and it was only a handful of years ago–when my appetite for delectable content and my ability to create were pretty evenly balanced. In the past year or so, that balance was tousled and my consumption of content skyrocketed. My creation of content… well, it nearly ceased altogether.
I’ve noticed this happening, but haven’t given it a lot of thought. After all, there’s a plethora of great content out there. Between blogs and Tweets and books and interviews with really smart, fascinating people, a Curious George like me could make a full-time job of doing nothing but keeping up with everything that interests me. So what’s the downside?
Wily little creative spark, flighty and mercurial. I wanted you to make an appearance, but for naught–plenty of other people out there were creating more than enough great content to make up for your absence anyway.
Part II: The Squelching of the Spark
The downside of this unending buffet of consumable content is what hit me when I sat down to write this post and found myself staring down a writer’s block larger and more looming than any I’d encountered before. After engaging in some de-blocking exercises born of maturity and self-awareness (read: “I kicked, screamed, and pouted, and procrastinated on Twitter”), I finally paused to ponder what it was that made up that formidable block standing between me and my written utterances.
And damned if it wasn’t a big ol’ pile of all of that wonderful content I’ve been consuming so voraciously over the past year or so. If my own creative voice is a spark, and stimulating, fascinating content is fuel to its embers, I’d managed to dump the equivalent of a mighty redwood onto my spark. And then got frustrated when I couldn’t figure out how to stoke the fire.
Poor little creative spark, smothered under a world of others’ input and thoughts. I berated you for abandoning me, but as it turns out, I kind of squashed you.
Part III: Awareness
I tweeted a few days ago that it’s a fine line between being inspired by other peoples’ content and being overwhelmed by too much input. What I didn’t realize is how much I’ve effectively silenced myself by constantly turning outward for inspiration, ideas and conversation. I’d simply forgotten to leave any space in my brain–let alone in my day–to listen to my own ideas, process all of my own snippets of information, and flesh out my own internal dialogue. I kept piling on more and more consumed content without leaving any room for me to create my own.
But then I realized, as I excavated the spark-smothering mass of consumed content, that my little creative spark was still there, a little pilot light that managed to stay lit. And the more I lifted the self-imposed pressure to write like the writers I enjoy, to be “as good as” the experts whose advice I try to heed, to create content that mirrors that which I consume in heft and in import (as judged by harshest-critic-me, of course)… the more that little spark flickered.
Resilient little spark, nestled at the bottom of this overwhelming pile of potential fodder and fuel. I fed you too intensely, when in truth, I needed to give you room to burn, big and bright and bold.
Part IV: The Renewal of the Flame
“Well,” I said aloud to the mental image of my creative spark, “looks like you and I have something to talk about after all.”
And damned if that potential-laden spark didn’t crackle up into a respectable creative flame.
Into the empty screen I’d stared at for hours earlier I suddenly poured the story of how I lost–and rediscovered–my creative spark. It’s neither keyword-rich nor particularly ReTweet-inducingly funny, neither list-formatted for easy skimming nor a how-to guide for easy online dissemination.
But it’s mine, and it’s heartfelt and real, and after all that pain of writer’s block battling, it actually feels really good to write.
Marvelous little spark, flames licking into the open space we created around you tonight, I tried so hard to consume enough great content to make you be great yourself, when in truth, all I needed was to give you space to BE.
Part V: In Which I Reflect and Intend
And so it is that I wrote this blog post for my dear friends’ blog, which became a manifesto of sorts, and a love letter to my creative spark. It being the time of year for reflections and intentions, I offer this commitment to myself: Embrace the exploration of others’ thoughts and musings, but respect the necessary space around my own spark; admire the power and humor and wisdom of others’ creations, but nurture the manifestation of my own.
Can you relate to this–to the writers block, the smothered spark, the feast of content consumed and famine of content created? If so, what’s your secret for finding balance between the input and the creation? How do you feed your creative spark without overpowering it?
Marissa Bracke is a Can-Do-Ologist who specializes in bridging gaps between small business owners’ to-dos and their can-actually-get-dones. When not solving collaboration conundrums or giving great email for her clients, Marissa is most likely creating a collage masterpiece, compiling the perfect eclectic playlist, or spoiling her two dogs (her Vice-Presidents of Customer Relations and Creative Napping, Ernie and Rosco).