When creativity hits you, drink it like a camel before a desert crossing

The craziest stuff starts to bloom once the rain hits (picture by Andesine on flickr)

The craziest stuff starts to bloom once the rain hits (picture by Andesine on flickr)

I don’t know about you, but for me creativity is like the rainy season in Namibia: two months of hoping for the crazy rains that fall from the sky with the force of a waterfall and turn the desert into a psychodelic sea of flowers – after ten months of blue skies and barely a drop of water to be found. So, what I have learned when I am on a roll, when the ideas come flooding in and I could develop a new project every minute, to go with the flow, drink it all in, not be scared or ration it.

Oh yes, I’d love to turn my creativity into something that more resembles the moderate climate of Germany, where you get a little bit of rain every month, so floods are rare, nature is accustomed to having a whole spring, summer and fall to complete a growing circle and everything is in well organized order. But for me it doesn’t work that way. And I cannot tell my mind: Wait, stop having all these ideas, moderate yourself, keep some of them for next month.

So all I can do is fearlessly let them come out like a waterfall, capture and share what I can. I send some out in the world, by sharing them with people who might be interested in and capable of implementing what I only treat as a passing thought. And I capture some well enough that I can keep on working on the idea, tinkering, testing, perfecting it during the dry season. Because a new idea is a nice thing to have, but to turn it into something (an innovation, a project, a work of art) requires far more than the initial inspiration, there is a lot rather un-creative hard work required.

But if I tried to slow down and ration the ideas that come to me, to turn inspiration into a more orderly process, I would have one of these terrible dry rainy seasons I have seen in Namibia, where nothing follows the first torrential rainfall, you look at the sky in desparation every day, some clouds might build up far in the distance but all you get is wind and dry thunderstorms.

8 Responses

  1. I agree. When I get creative I let all the mundane to do’s slide until the ‘downpour’ is over. it is not something one can harness to a schedule really so I don’t try to.
    I watched the net map toolbox film and saw it as a way to communicate what everyone’s role is and make more efficient use of resources – my brain is not receptive at the moment having just got up and my eyes are playing up – but is that it in a nutshell? Will watch again when brain decides to wake up with me. And is this YOUR creation Eva? (Sorry if I missed where it says so – but my eyes…)

    • Yes, I came up with it about 7 years ago and have since used Net-Map with individuals, groups, companies, development agencies etc. to understand how to achieve goals in situations where a lot of different people are involved. And how to build good and healthy relationships. So, even with sleepy eyes, you did a good job getting to the core of it.

  2. Let me be further nosey, what came first for you Africa or the entrepreneurial leanings that created the Toolbox? In other words tell me or point me to the genesis of it all in your vast archives

    • Hi and thanks for your curiosity. When I was a student and had little to do with Africa, I had the opportunity of doing an internship and my Prof asked me where I wanted to go. My answer came out of me before I even really thought about it: “I’ve always been a bit scared of Africa, so that would be a good place to go.” I fell in love with everything (even the tough stuff) on my first stay in Namibia, to be able to return and learn more, I did my PhD research there (4 months living out of an old VW combi in the Namibian semi-desert) and still didn’t have enough. My next stint was 3 years in northern Ghana. There I was so overwhelmed and confused by the local politics I was supposed to study, that I developed Net-Map to understand what was going on. That is about 7 years ago and I have used it everywhere and for everything that involves different people, their connections, goals and influence. And I regularly teach others to use it too…

  3. The plan is to see if we can’t write a small magazine feature on your story because it sounds very intriguing. I love the idea of your discovery of the highs and lows of Africa, your compulsion to go there and how you dealt with various situations such as creating the netmap tool box. I’m going to pass it to the team if I may and see what they think. So give us a bit of time on this as I know there is backlog of great stuff to be featured.

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