Where does creativity come from? Earlier this week I was driving my kids into school, when bang! the idea for a book series dropped, fully formed, into my head. I opened my mouth and the title of the book came out. I knew, at that precise moment, what the story would be about. This was not an idea I had been pondering for ages; it literally fell out of the sky. I swear I heard it hit the roof of the car. When I picked the kids up later that day, the first thing they wanted to know was: Have you written the first chapter yet? (Well, yeah, but if I’m honest it wrote itself.)
You can’t force inspiration to happen. It strikes when you least expect it. There are conditions in which it seems more likely to hit. A backdrop of experiences, knowledge and technique. A series of sensations or emotions. Looking for a long time at an object or a view. Throw lots of bits and pieces into a pot and let it simmer, without trying to decide what you are cooking. Let it arrive when it’s ready. Get involved in a ‘working meditation’ – gardening, cleaning, driving. Filter out the white noise of the world. Or just play. Get focused. Then bang! (People who know about these things tell me that creativity is neural pathways firing in my brain. This is amazing. How lucky are we?)
A hot night in the Alto Minho, August 2013. There’s a shard of glass, discarded on the roadside. It’s close to the house where we are staying. The bushes all around are dry, and brittle and full of natural oils. The sun hits it at just the right angle, there’s a crackling sound, and the scent of eucalyptus drifts into the air. Within minutes the land is ablaze. The view from our window is apocalyptic and we make a swift exit to let it pass by. The conditions were perfect for the spark. The fire swept across the mountain, cleaning it, letting it write itself anew: terrifying, but part of the natural cycle of the land. The burnt vegetation will fall onto the ground and feed it, just as it has done for endless centuries. The winter rains will come and refresh the soil. Green shoots will poke their heads out. Bang! A new world has been created.