Friday, May 07, 2021

Finding My Creative Watering Hole

Finding Inspiration

Blank Desert
We are all on a journey through the desert, looking for our creative watering holes.

For every creative person, inspiration is that double edged sword we continually try plunging into our brains, hoping it will dislodge some tidbit of information that we can spin into that evasive “Idea“. The next step of our creative careers is always just one ‘idea’ away. That makes it sound simple, but these ideas can sometimes only be found at the end of a long, draining journey. We cannot treat this journey as a battle. We can leave this damaging double edged sword behind. It can sit atop unfinished notebooks, as we take on a tool much more useful for our creative journey. Our canteen.

So together, let’s ditch the double edged swords and begin our walk. One step at a time, across the desert forever in search of our “Creative Watering Holes.

Ignore The Mirages

Desert Road
You could think you are walking towards the goal, just to find it never existed.

I Introduced myself to this idea of “Creative Watering Holes” in my article “4 Ways to Break Writer’s Block“. In this article I briefly mention algorithms, and the distraction role they have in our creative careers. They stand tall in the desert as mirages. Distracting us from our humble goals by showing grand possibilities. Mirages take many forms across this journey. Algorithms trying to dictate your wording, other creators acting as Gatekeepers, or external stress factors stealing our focus. All of these things, and more, stand tall in our lives practically calling us over to them. We get so caught up in the journey, that these mirages feel like the only important thing on Earth.

These mirages are only as big and distracting as we let them be. Our brains rely on familiarity. When we find ourselves in the middle of the desert, carving our path and trying to forge a creative career, we don’t need to have an ‘End Goal’ in mind. We just know we need to fill up our canteen’s to survive, and eventually this bleak desert will be beautiful. We don’t know what a Beautiful, Thriving desert looks like, so we let our brains get distracted by these imaginary mirages built upon real world foundations. We have to stay focused, and ignore these mirages, no matter how enticing they may look. They are imaginary constructs to make us feel ‘productive’.

Try Something Radical

Splish Splash
Sometimes, we should take the time to frolic.

When we finally hit our stride, we manage to find some more watering holes. Filling up the canteen, and heading to the next one. Sometimes, we need a little more than just one fill. I could fill the canteen, clutch it closely, and continue sipping it throughout my journey. Alternatively, there are other times when I can be so relieved to finally stumble across the watering hole, that I jump right in. Bathe in it. Frolic in it. Dive under the water and let myself soak in the inspiration. Letting it wash off the grime I’ve collected, and refresh myself for whatever the journey has prepared for me.

Just like the kitchen sink at Midnight, I could stand there, continually filling up my canteen and drinking it down until I feel refreshed enough to move on. However unlike the kitchen sink, we cannot rely on it being there every single time. Once we walk away from the creative watering hole, the opportunity to pour the water over our heads is gone. If we try that between holes, we’ll have nothing to keep us going when we need a sip.

My point here is, when I find myself in a creative watering hole, I need to recognize it for its potential. I could sip, fill and walk away, OR I could dive headfirst and see what radical uses I can get out of it. I found a creative watering hole when I came up with the term Creative Watering Hole in that other article. I hit that, it refreshed me and helped me get that article out. But then I dove headfirst and here we are with an entire post about this concept. I’ll very likely spin it into a Podcast episode as well. This watering hole’s purpose wasn’t just to get me to the next one, it was a full swim that soaked inspiration into me.

Move On, Proudly

Desert Again
Continue the journey with pride for where you’ve already been.

The idea of walking away from these watering holes is the troubling part of this metaphor for me. I don’t think we should ever walk away from water in the desert and forget that it exists. Just like we should not walk away from inspirations and forget they exist. We can move on from these watering holes in pursuit of more, but we want to be able to come back. For some of us, it could be as simple as dropping a Pin on Google Maps. For others, we have to lodge the watering hole in a specific part of the memory that protects it.

We want to build up the area around the watering hole so that it stays a watering hole. Without letting the earth around it shuffle dirt into our canteen. We want to bolster the feeling within ourselves. We want to be able to harness the inspiration we find in our lives. For me, I harness my inspiration by sitting in front of a Word Document at the end of the day. I dance between so many emotions in a day, and have so many interesting conversations, that if I don’t take the time to harness those, I could risk walking away from them for good.

When we are satisfied with our output, we move on to the next project and the next inspiration. It’s the natural flow of creativity. We need to not discard the past when we do this. We need to be able to look at our past work, our future work, and our entire body of work with pride. We should be proud of the result of that inspiration. Each step in the journey across this desert is worth celebrating, even when our only focus is not running out of water.

Anthony McGuigan
July 2020

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