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From Spark to Slog: Creativity and the power of iteration

“Creativity isn’t a trait; it’s a discipline. Those who say they are not creative are often those who are averse to the hard work of transforming a good idea into something truly magnificent.” ~Bredon Burchard

Engaging the spirit of creativity is less about the unique idea you have come up with and more about how much trial and error you put into bringing it to life.

We all have the initial idea, but we don’t all see it through. We all have the initial spark, but we don’t all make an effort to fan that spark into a flame, let alone into a fire that will spread.

The creative process is real work. Hard work. Creating a finished product that’s polished and beautiful takes time. You don’t just go from spark to fire without the in between slog. Sometimes, often, it takes multiple strikes to even get a spark to catch. And unlike fire, the creative process has even more elements that must come together to create beautiful art.

Iteration is the thing. Repetition is the way. Trial and error is the path. Just as the journey is the thing in life, iteration is the thing in art. Iteration is the slog, the creative toil, the imaginative struggle, the artistic striving it takes to get from just a good idea to a work of art.

Let’s take that spark, that good idea, and follow it through to completion. Sure, it might run out of gas. It might fade into obscurity. It might even fail utterly. But it also might lead to something more magnificent that we could have possibly imagined. We’ll never know unless we grab that spark and take a leap of courage into the slog…

Start with an idea:

“The world needs more writers who don’t give a damn about best seller lists, and who write with their heart’s blood.” ~Robert McCammon

You know the idea. You’ve had it for a while now. Maybe you’ve had it for years, or even decades. You always thought to yourself that it would make a great novel, or play, or movie, or video game. You’ve carried it with you to remind you of your own genius. Maybe you even wrote a couple pages about it and then fear took over and you stopped and never looked back.

It’s never too late to take that idea and push it over the ledge into the slog. Sure, the slog means work. It means venturing into the unknown. It means potentially, probably, failing. But so what? Slog anyway. Work hard anyway. Venture anyway. Fail anyway.

Failure is important. Especially while slogging. But we’ll get to that. For now, reignite the spark. Keep striking until it sparks and takes hold. If your idea is really good, it’s time to prove it. It’s time to go all in. It’s time to go from spark to slog.

Move it, shape it, break it:

“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.” ~Robert Rubin

So, you’ve taken the leap of courage into the slog. The spark of your idea is cradled close to your chest like a baby. Now it’s time to let that baby move. Let it crawl. Let it get dirt under its nails. Let it eat mud. Let it bump into walls, fall off cliffs, pet scorpions. Yikes! But yes, it’s got to hurt a little. Maybe even a lot. Your baby will have to break and come back together again.

Move your idea around. Spin it. Shape it by imaginatively stuffing it into impossible spaces. Keep squaring circles and circling squares with it. Allow the spark to breath, to feed on a variety of kindling, to test its own boundaries. Let it burn, burn, burn. Let it break apart under the intense heat of your imagination. Then snuff it out. But there is gold in the ashes.

Discover something new within yourself and start again:

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ~Thomas Merton

You are full-on into the slog now. Your original idea, your baby, lies broken in your hands, shattered into a thousand pieces. Your spark, which slowly burned for a time, is now a pile of ashes. Believe it or not, this is a good thing. This is a vital step forward in the creative process. Now the real work begins.

Pain has become your teacher. But now you realize something new about yourself: you can handle the pain. You can now use fear as fuel for the fire. You realize that your idea was a rickety bridge, and though it has crumbled away, it got you from there to here. It got you from a state of fear to a state of fearlessness. Maybe even fierceness.

Now you are ready to begin anew. You are ready to piece your baby back together again with new and improved pieces and a glue made from resilience and rebirth. You are ready to rise from the ashes like a phoenix, resolute and robust, and prepared to adapt and overcome.

See a new vision and jump back into the slog:

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.” ~Ray Bradbury