Imagine that your mind is a corkboard. It’s brand new; you haven’t yet amassed any photographs, receipts, or quotes to affix to it. Which means that right now it is lacking of any pinpricks, thumbtacks, or sticky notes taped to its surface. It is almost smooth to the touch; but if you run your hand over the cork there are small imperfections that snag on your palm where the face of the board is split to allow pins to sink into it. And there is a thin veneer of pine acting as a frame.
It sounds exciting doesn’t it? When someone asks you about your creative cognizance aren’t you just dying to tell them all about your plain brown corkboard that is completely devoid of any imagination or creativity?
…Probably not. But in actual fact so much of our creative impulses are unconsciously developed upon a mental corkboard nailed into the walls of our minds. It sounds obscure doesn’t it? So let me explain.
It goes like this:
You start off with an idea. Often it’s something quite small. Maybe you decide you want to write a book. So you take the idea and pin it on your board. This moment marks the inception of your creative map. From there you start to build upon it. You take a piece of string and stretch it out to a second pin where you begin to fashion your protagonist. A third pin represents the antagonist. A forth exemplifies their conflict, and so on and so forth. As each new idea is tacked against the board, a piece of string reaches out to connect this new thought process to the last, creating an ever growing junction of thread.
Before too long your corkboard is overflowing with pins that represent ideas, plot points, research, characters, historical fact, intellectual and cultural bias, and a myriad of other concepts. As your learning and creative process begins to grow you start pushing thumbtacks into the pine veneer, desperate for more space. Eventually your thoughts outgrow your corkboard and spill across the wall, cover the floors, and in some rare instances, even the goddamn roof.
The pine frame of your board represents the preconceptions and creative limitations that you initially bought into the project. Like all intellectual boundaries, they need to be tested and broken. The pins and strings that stretch out onto the walls and floors of your mind characterize what you have learned through your creative pursuits. These pins are your creative freedom. They are what makes you and your concept both original and great.
It all sounds brilliant. And it is. It really is. As a writer I love creating mind maps and plucking my fingers along the strings stretched across my mind in an effort to breath life into characters and plotlines. But sometimes your mind maps can become convoluted. Strings can tangle or break, or you can find yourself venturing so far from your original concept that you feel more confused than creative. When this happens, all you can do is start to remove pins, coil up your string, and slowly work your way backwards until you eventually stumble back onto the thought pattern that you originally embarked upon.
It can be difficult to destroy your map. Sometimes we creative types can invest so much time in constructing these elaborate artworks of thread and string that it almost feels like you have failed to admit that the ideas are actually holding your imagination at bay. But there is something quite cathartic in clearing off a completed mind map, wiping your corkboard clean and starting over again.
But this process of mind maps, pins, strings, boundaries and starting over needn’t be limited to limited to the creative arts. It can be applied to our every day lives. It already is. We just aren’t consciously aware of this fact. Each and every day we experience new highs and lows, learn new information, forge new friendships, and add to the various corkboards that make up our minds.
We have boards dedicated to our employment; others represent friendships, dreams, likes and dislikes, religious orientation… The list is endless. For many of us we continuously add to these boards, pushing pins into veneers that represent societal, financial, physical or psychological constraints. But we stop there. We never dare extend our aspirations and learning across the threshold of those imposed restraints. Instead we continue to loop strings between an increasingly clustered series of pins and tacks until tangles wreak havoc across our corkboards, knots form, and we become disillusioned with the startling difference between our desires and our realities.
When we reach this level of confusion it can be difficult to remember how we even got here in the first place. A desire to obtain a degree, or fund a community arts project, or even write a book somehow evolves into working an unfulfilling desk job, chasing money to clear debts, and trying to force a square peg into a round hole. But all hope is not lost. Just like the writer mentioned earlier in this post, you can clear your corkboard, refocus and start over again.
Rather than write a typical New year: New me post in which you the reader rolls your eyes as I dictate my hopes and dreams for the coming twelve months, I though it’d try something a little different. Instead I will simply close out this entry with a statement and a challenge. 2015 was a fantastic year that came with both dizzying highs and harrowing lows. But that is now in the past, and the time has come to reset my creative corkboard and start afresh once more.
Right now I have two manuscripts in production (one of which is nearing completion), and this site to attend to. These three projects combined are my first pin. My objective is to continue to grow as a writer and see the sequel to Midas put into print. Where the next twelve months takes me from here is at mystery at this point in time. But with each passing day I will grow and develop and weave strings between newly acquired pins affixed to my board. As always I will continue to pluck at those strings and continue to learn until my dreams can come to life.
My challenge for you, my dear reader is this: reset your own corkboard. Remove all the tangles and knots that have grown and developed over time and start afresh. Create a new starting point as of today and grow and develop from here on out. Work towards your dreams, just like I am. And no matter how far you travel or how much you learn, never lose site of the reason you created a board of memories and experiences in the first place.