There is a German proverb “Von nichts kommt nichts.” I used to translate it as ‘you can’t make something out of nothing.’ The phase takes on a new significance, however, if you see it as an idiomatic expression, meaning something different from what the words literally imply. When an idiom is translated into another language, its meaning is often changed. Perhaps it is better understood as nothing comes from nothing? This is an interesting starting point for anyone pondering on the creative process.
Creativity is a wonderful thing. It is very personal but its consequences are invariably very public. As writers, we have to create conditions where we can tune in to that elusive creative spark and somehow nurture it into a flame. This is an interesting metaphor for how my own creative thinking seems to work. You may have seen documentaries where they show how to light a fire with a flint. There is definitely some preparation. As well as having the right sort of flint to hand, you need some good dry tinder that will light from a tiny spark. You have to hit it in a particular way and be ready to catch the spark before it is gone. Even then, technique is important, as you must blow just hard enough to make a flame.
The spark can come unexpectedly (and often inconveniently) when driving or even in the shower. I have to be vigilant and make sure I write these little ‘spark’ ideas down as soon as I can, then let the tinder of my subconscious do its work. Some show great promise but quickly fade. Others flare up into a fire that I can barely control, consuming my every waking moment.