Breathing in and Collecting

There have been many analogies for the creative process, and how it is to live as a person in which the creative fire burns hotter than the average. Two of my favourites come from The Oatmeal and Amanda Palmer. One likens living as a creative to breathing, and the other sees the creative process as a process of join-the-dots. Right now, I’m struggling to do both.

The breathing analogy comes from The Oatmeal, explored in this comic. It’s great and you should definitely give it a look, but slapping it here would disrupt the flow of this piece and might get me a grumpy email from him, so I’d rather not. Essentially, he details how his friend told him that creativity is like breathing. Exhaling is the production of your work, be it cartoons, writing, songs, or whatever creative outlet you could possibly choose. The inhaling is taking in all of the influences around you – your social interactions, books you read, games you play, adventures you go on. Inhale, then exhale. While most people see only the exhalation of words onto a page or melody in their ears, inhaling is also vitally important. Without inspiration and experiences to draw from, it is hard to find a unique perspective on anything.

Amanda Palmer’s image of creativity is as unique and striking as The Oatmeal’s. She divides creativity into three stages: collecting, connecting, and sharing.

Collecting is similar to The Oatmeal’s breathing in – the creative looks at the world around them and sees an array of dots – ideas that are poignant, striking, mundane yet interesting, or in any way worthy of retaining in their creative toolbox. After they have been collected, the creative will then connect these ideas in ways that most people wouldn’t see. They can make deep connections, humorous connections, or even bizarre connections – everyone connects differently. Once the connections have been made, they are shared. This can be a blog post, a tweet, a painting, a song, a piece of graffiti, a game, anything.

For the past few months, I’ve been inhaling and far more than I should. I’ve been lucky enough to have a supportive fiancee who has taken most of the financial responsibility in the house whilst I find myself, my medium, and my material. It’s not fair, and I see the jealousy in her eyes every day. What she doesn’t see is my agonizing over being able to find my mysterious, yet-to-be-harnessed ‘voice’. How do I express myself? Am I a singer? A writer? A caster? What am I? I still don’t even know. I’m still breathing in. Every now and then I let out a little puff of work, and I feel satisfied for a day or two before once again looking at the precipice of my own mediocrity.

Where I should have a deep pit of connections to share with the world, I look into my hands and see an embarrassingly small collection of mangled, fragmented ideas that still need nurturing, care, and forging before they can be deemed worthy of sharing with anyone.

I have been said to be living the dream, and most of the time I share their sentiment. I’m living comfortably with the one that I love and a cat that is not always an utter asshole. But on days like today, I wish that I would be satisfied with this, and not feel like I should be doing something more, something else. I wish the grass didn’t look so damn green. I wish that I didn’t see the twinkle of uniqueness every once in a while just to tease me into believing that I would have something interesting to share with the world. I wish my brain would just shut up and be content. But it isn’t. And it won’t. I’ll keep on collecting, connecting. Breathing in. I hope I can take a long breath out before I burst.


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