Sparking inspiration off the ragged edge of curiosity (Archived)

When was the last time you chased a mundane, every day thought down a dark road?

Many moons ago, at a busy train station, I spotted an older lady with no shoes walking confidently along the platform. She was pulling along a small suitcase on wheels. Her head was high. She had a quiet pride and a confident, peaceful energy about her. Where was she was going? Where was she coming from? What was in the bag? Why were her feet bare? My curiosity about her story entertained me for my entire train trip and inspired a writing exercise.

On the train again, I spotted an ancient coke can overgrown with weeds in a ditch. Once, a long time ago, a particular hand reached for that particular can. They picked it up and cracked the lid. What fridge did they draw it from? What reflection flashed back as they closed the door? What inspired that hit of caffeine? Were they happy, crying, or thoughtful? That pivotal moment in the story of that coke can, the myriad of wheres, whens and hows, could spin a thousand stories.

We sometimes see donations pass through our office. I was sorting a pile of these when I came across a necklace sheltered by a tiny box. The chain was broken. Long, ice-blonde hairs were caught in the break in the chain. Had a child tried it on behind her mother’s back? Did the child get it tangled, panic and hide the evidence? Was it a little sister sneaking into her sibling’s room, trying on her things?

When confronted with a scene an obvious story creeps in. But what if we push ourselves past the obvious? What if we challenged ourselves to write ten explanations for a single scene? Twenty? This would force us past the obvious and into weird and wonderful places of dark dreams and convoluted behaviours and twisted realities. Imagine the stories rising from that space!

If we were dancers or sports-people we would devote ourselves to the practice of our art, honing our muscles until purposeful movement becomes second nature. Creativity is an art like any other that benefits from being practiced and expanded and pushed sideways into shiny new spaces. We need to keep our imagination loose and limber, keeping out minds agile and curious.

Maybe its time to stop chasing sparks of creativity in screens and babble and turn our attention to the people, and interactions and story prompts all around us, all of the time? This could be people, places, the footprints of life of left behind, animals and insects, plants and trees — all of them playing out their own stories every day. Our creative minds can catch against a sound or an image and spin sideways into something else entirely.

What do you do to exercise your creative muscles? How do you leverage off the ordinary every day and step sideways into daydream and creative thought?

(Posted 18 Jun 2020. Follow me at:

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