Why Creativity is Like a Pumpkin.
I love growing pumpkins.
But just so we’re clear, I’m no farmer. Not even close. My thumb is only green if that’s the paint color I’m using at the time. We simply have a small vegetable garden in the back yard that my wife plants and tends. My only request every year is for her to grow at least one pumpkin plant.
And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of growing these magnificent fruits, then you know one plant can be plenty.
As I’ve watched them grow this year, I began to see how similar they are to the creative process.
I’ll not belabor the seed analogy. We all know that this is how everything starts, including an idea. And ideas are the germination of all creative acts. I’ll only say that I’m certain that each and every person has within themselves the capacity to be creative. We are all born with these seeds. Creativity in humans is innate.
But an idea left alone, like a seed unplanted, produces nothing further than the thought itself.
Stick that seed into the right conditions, or begin to act on the idea, and that’s when the magic starts. A leaf or two pop out and begin to feed the plant. The idea begins to take shape and the creative process begins.
As the vine starts to grow, it is proceeded by tendrils. At first, these are soft, pliable and rather straight “feelers.” They lead the vine. And they start out open and vulnerable. But once these tendrils get a grip and wrap themselves around an object, they become so tightly wound and firmly entwined they not only become immovable, they also determine the vine’s next direction.
As our delicate idea begins to transition from passive thought to tangible action, the creative act itself begins to define and determine the direction of our creation. When I write one word, it determines the next. When I paint a brush stroke, it informs the next. Whatever our chosen medium, the act of moving from passive to active creates its own momentum.
With pumpkins, it’s all about the vine.
Everything springs from it: massive green leaves, big yellow flowers, other vine branches and, of course, the pumpkin fruit itself. I’ve had pumpkin vines climb their way ten feet up and through a nearby lilac bush, continue to grow on top and along it as it sought the sun and then produce full pumpkins supported by the bushes. It was one very determined vine.
But before I talk more about the vine, let’s talk about the roots.
The hidden support system that feeds everything. This is our knowledge, our education, our training in our chosen creative venue and our many thousands of hours practicing our craft. This is the invisible support system that feeds our creativity and hones our skills.
Without deep and well developed roots, our creative effort will produce something of minimal value and unremarkable impact. Mediocre results. Small fruit. In time, our creative idea and initial effort will most likely wither and die.
We need to constantly feed our roots. Never stop learning, never cease practicing, always honing and refining what we know and what we do. Write, paint, photograph, and dance everyday. Play our instrument everyday. Weave and sew everyday. Sculpt everyday. Act everyday. Sing everyday.
And if you can’t do these things everyday, then read, watch or listen to something that nourishes this knowledge and feeds these skills.
Back to the vine.
This is our creative “object,” our masterpiece in the making — our story, painting, photograph, sculpture, tapestry or performance. Our thing of beauty. The fruit of our labor. Our big, orange pumpkin.
While the fruit, the object or performance itself is a thing of beauty to behold and enjoy, all of the elements that make up the vine are also beautiful. Each big green leaf a wonder, every yellow flower gorgeous.
Sentences within a story, or words within a poem move us deeply. Sections of a painting arrest our eyes. Portions of a performance, an image, a sculpture, a tapestry resonate deeply and make us pause.
And while these elements along the vine have enough beauty to stand alone, they serve to enhance and enrich the whole experience; they engage, enlighten and inform the entire finished piece. They deepen our big, orange pumpkin.
As we are now living in the season of pumpkins, and they are seen literally everywhere and are the flavor du jour in nearly everything, I hope you’ll start, as I have, to look at them a bit differently.
I hope you’ll now add more pumpkin to your entire creative life.