Let’s say you invest yourself in a task that calls for some resourcefulness. You run into an impasse. Working more and working harder get you nowhere. You concede the futility of more of the same and admit you lack some unknown something to move forward. You try to let it go for a while. You take a break and do something else. Then, as if from nowhere, it comes to you. The work resumes anew.
Later, looking back you wonder, “Where does creativity come from?”
If our response is to seek an explanation we might answer: from certain neurological processes, from the unconscious, the soul, nature or from God. The risk of an explanation is that, satisfied with having arrived at an answer, we might make it an endpoint rather than an opening and cut short the living process that birthed the question. The state of not knowing, as it did when we were stuck, opens a space for an encounter with what meets us in our lack. So we stay with the question, make a space for it and ask it to tell the tale of whence it came.
“As if from nowhere” planted a seed of wonder. It germinated underground until it opened to imagination and the question was born, “Where does our creativity come from?”
The fruit of wonder, the question invites us to wonder. Offspring of a creative act, it invites us into a creative act. Imaginal in origin, it invites us to imagine. “Nowhere” has become a mysterious place we seek. In wonder we desire to experience and know firsthand what dwells there. The quest in the question begins the weaving of a mythic tale of origins.
We are not alone in this tale and its weaving. The question arose from an experience of that mysterious factor that ruminated, waited and stepped in when you stepped back. You invested yourself and something with you did the same. Whether in the doing of tasks or the telling of this tale the same double life makes creative work possible.
Our question, a work of mythic imagination, calls for an answer in kind. When we respond to the call to mythologize (to imagine where creativity comes from), we deepen our relationship with those mysteries that inhabit our work. If you work creatively long enough you may learn to trust that mysterious something, to court it, to make room for it, to welcome and honor it. Tend the relationship and the two will meet in the work in wonderful ways you can’t predict or fully comprehend.