Creativity, Bakery Bread, and Hating the Internet

Two true stories.

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First story. Guy loved to bake. He baked all sorts of things — cakes, cookies, muffins — but he particularly loved to bake bread. And he was good at it. After considerable practice he had mastered the mysteries of yeast. He had learned how much kneading is enough and how much is too much. He knew just the sound a “done” loaf of bread makes when you tap it on the bottom. He learned the ways of bread well enough to be able to experiment with ingredients — to combine things in new ways to create new recipes.

And that bread was good. Sure there was the odd doorstop in the early days, but Guy developed a reputation as someone who could produce good bread. When friends gathered for pot luck, Guy baked the bread to consistently rave reviews.

But there was one friend whose idea of a rave review was always some variation of this statement: “This is so good– it tastes just like you bought it at a bakery!” This particular “praise” always felt to Guy more like an insult. Even though he recognized that the statement was intended to mean “This bread is of a much higher quality than the processed stuff they sell at the supermarket, to Guy it always felt like, “This bread that you produced from scratch with your bare hands and brought to the party still warm from the oven is no different than the stuff I can buy from the bakery shop on the corner.”

~   ~    ~   ~   ~   ~

Second story. Gal had been playing music all her life. Piano. Guitar. One day she started playing around and before she knew it she had written a song. Then another. She started writing music all the time, and then she worked up the courage to start sharing her creations with friends and family. Everybody acted impressed and said nice things about the songs.

One person whose opinion Gal valued consistently praised Gal’s songs with the statement, “That one’s great. It reminds me of [insert name of famous song written by real composer here].” After hearing various versions of this feedback applied to song after song, Gal began to think perhaps her work wasn’t that original after all. Eventually she got busy with other projects. She hasn’t written a song in years.

~   ~    ~   ~   ~   ~

One of the fun parts of my current job is that I get to teach a workshop in Creative Thinking. We start that workshop talking about our Inner Critics — those voices we all carry around in our heads that call down our efforts at creativity. Sometimes those voices sound like the voices of real, human critics who were part of our upbringing. Sometimes those voices are less specific. Some of us are better at shushing those voices than others.

Ironically, even though I can teach others how to manage their own Inner Critics, I tend to be less successful at taming my own. I tend to second guess myself. I tend to assume that any great idea I have has already been done, a hundred times over and more successfully than anything I could produce.

And I’ve decided that when it comes to talking myself out of my own creative ideas, my biggest enemy is the internet.

It happened again this morning. I woke up with a fantastic idea for a new blog theme– maybe even a whole other blog. And then I made the fatal error. I thought to myself, “I’ll do a little search and see who else is doing something like that.”

Bad idea. Bad. Bad. Bad. BAD.

Of course I found dozens of blogs. Granted none were doing exactly what I was planning to do. But enough were doing related things  that I began to question the originality of my idea.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the information at our fingertips. It’s easy to convince ourselves that there is nothing new under the sun. That it’s all been said. That there are no new ideas.

But that’s not true. Because creativity can be as simple as putting two things together that have not been put together before. And by that standard, an idea has creative potential as soon as it is something that has never before been put together with me.

Or you. Or anyone. We all have the capacity to be creative, and what makes our creations truly new is that part of them that comes from within the creator– from within us.

Guy’s bread was nothing like bakery bread. Gal’s songs were her own. And my new blog idea? I think it has potential. I’m going to give it some more thought–maybe work up a bit of a plan. What I’m NOT going to do any more is short circuit my idea by holding it up to other people’s ideas for comparison.

 

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About Muddy River Muse

Writer. Reader Educator. Manager. Mother. Dreamer. And dedicated riverbank walker.
This entry was posted in Change one thing, Why I Teach and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Creativity, Bakery Bread, and Hating the Internet

  1. Oh if you could only rewind the clock to the point of that “Bad idea. Bad. Bad. Bad. BAD. idea” and the power goes off! Much intrigued by what you have written. I look forward to further episodes!

  2. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  3. Liz says:

    Hi there – this post really resonates with me. I also do quite a bit of work with my students on the ‘inner critic’. While this is something we try to encourage for regular ‘academic’ writing, we need to silence this voice for more creative writing and the students (understandably) struggle switching between these practices. I notice the duality myself in my different worlds of poet and academic. As to the influence of reading/research on our writing – well, this can also be a block to creativity as well as an enabler. I have one poet friend who reads voraciously while he is writing and another who refuses to read at all in case it blocks his own ‘voice’. Certainly I notice in my own practice as a poet the influence of my reading sometimes. If I have an idea for a poem or blog post I tend not to look around to see whether and what others have done. Hope you go for it! Liz

  4. I love this post! I can’t even decorate my house because I look on Pinterest for ideas and of course mine won’t be that good so why bother. Finally got brave enough to start a blog by why write, everyone already said everything…The internet is killing me! Thanks for the great illustrations.

  5. Pingback: Create the path by walking on it | Muddy River Muse

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