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If You Build It, Ideas Will Come

If you subscribe to this blog you may have noticed I’ve been posting more lately. A friend and I committed to doing so, and so far, we’ve both managed to accomplish that goal, despite having full-time jobs and a myriad of other commitments. Yay us.

Ultimately blogging is supposed to be an offering—something that is of interest to or helpful to readers. But selfishly, it’s been helping me.

I’ve only been blogging regularly for a few weeks, but I’ve noticed I have more ideas and that I’m making more connections. And it’s helping the essays in my book too. I’m not stuck in the way I have been. Revisions are happening, and I’m on track to finish my collection by the deadline I set for myself.

I’ve read about this phenomenon in many places. In Big Magic, for instance, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about how ideas are things that are constantly floating in the ether, and how they will come to you regularly when they know you are serious. Our job, she says, is to welcome those ideas and follow them where they lead.

Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, writes about Somerset Maugham, who, when once asked if he wrote on schedule or only when inspired responded, “I write only when inspiration strikes…Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

What Maugham knew, Pressfield writes, is that “by performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, he set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration.”

I’m here to tell you, it’s true. I don’t think you necessarily have to show up at the same time every day, or even every day, but the more you are doing the work (whatever that work is) the more the work flows. The more you act on ideas, the more ideas come your way. At least, that’s been my experience for the last few weeks.

A writer I know once said that writing—or any art—is reciprocal; it comes in and it has to go back out to complete the circle. If we don’t allow creativity to move through us, we become like a machine with a blockage. The cogs in the system gum up, get heavy, and stop turning. The ideas can’t come in anymore because we aren’t putting them out. Or, the ideas do come, but if we don’t do anything with them they just pile up and stop the flow.

I don’t necessarily think the medium matters. Blogging isn’t the magic formula here, any more than posting photographs on Instagram or adding new videos to YouTube would be.

The key seems to be the commitment to not letting ideas pass me by or stack up in my notebook with no outlet. It seems to be active participation in the circle that is the creative process. If what goes up must come down, then maybe what goes in, must also come out.

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