I’m going to start this one with the lesson to be learned, and it follows.
Sometimes, when you’re working on a creative project, you don’t feel like you’re making any progress. You feel like throwing your hands up and walking away. But then, one tiny thing gets added, and it all falls into place.
It’s like when you’re titrating chemicals in your high school chemistry class. Mine was so long ago that I don’t remember what the precise chemicals were (and hopefully someone will re-educate me). But I remember doing an experiment where we had a beaker of a clear liquid, and suspended above the beaker was a titration tube. “Titration” is science talk for being able to add one substance to another a tiny bit at a time. You’re adding one clear liquid to another one, drop by tiny drop, until suddenly… bam. You’ve added just enough liquid that a chain reaction occurs, and there’s an explosion of color in the beaker. It boils out like an angry storm cloud, until about a second later, the entire beaker is dark blue. I think it was blue.
Creativity can be just like that.
One time I was volunteering at a kids’ summer camp. At this camp, I was part of the programming team, which meant I worked with two other guys to put on two hour-long shows for the kids every day. We didn’t recycle old material… everything was new and created from scratch. And usually at the last minute, because we were creative and therefore procrastinators.
Our shows had a sci-fi theme that year, and featured two main characters: Astrogator, or ‘Gator for short, played by yours truly, and a puppet named Galactic Gecko.
Well, Galactic Gecko needed a theme song, and it just was not happening.
Vince, our music guy, and I kept hammering away at it. We’d be working on building sets, or setting up lights, or making costumes, and we’d keep kicking the theme song idea around in our heads to no avail. Well, we actually had something. We had a chorus that went like this:
“Gecko. Galactic Gecko.”
Super awesome. The kids were going to LOOOOVE that.
Actually, the kids were arriving the next day, and we still didn’t have a theme song. Panic mode was starting to set in.
That night, Vince and I worked on it until late in the evening, to no avail. We finally decided to throw in the towel and call it a night. We went back to the programming team’s cabin and turned off the lights.
In the darkness, I tried one more time. I sang “Gecko. Galactic Gecko.”
Vince chimed in with a new verse: “He’s got big eyes and a funny nose…”
And then, like a bolt out of the blue, like the last drop of titrated chemicals, it hit me. “He walks on my face with those suction cup toes.”
Vince yelled. He turned on the light and started jumping up and down on his cot in his pajamas. (Well, actually he was in his tighty whiteys, but since he wound up being the manager for his daughters’ pop group that got super famous, I’m not going to share that detail with you.) We cranked out the rest of the song in about ten minutes. The next morning, we got up and made a music video of the song which we introduced to the kids when they arrived that night. They did, in fact, love it.
Crisis averted. We had just needed that one drop of inspiration.
So when you’re struggling with creativity, sometimes the best thing to do is abandon the idea you’re working on. Maybe that’s a darling you need to slay.
But maybe… just maybe… the idea is lurking in there somewhere and you just need that one last drop. You just need to put the idea away for a moment, and let your subconscious keep working on it. And then, maybe… just maybe… you’ll find yourself with an explosion of color.