A little while ago I wrote a blog, Real Magic, about how stories are the magic in our lives. I am very passionate about the power of stories so I’ll probably write about it again sometime. But right now I want to talk about the beginning of that magic, which is creativity and ideas. Creativity is a lot like making a potion, it’s what happens before you can make the magic, and it takes just as much time and effort.
Think of a witch, getting ready to make a potion. She’s got shelves lined with jars of dried or gooey ingredients. It could’ve taken her years to collect all of the ingredients if not a lifetime plus what she might’ve inherited from her great-grandmother. I think about when I was a kid and tried catching lizards and salamanders, those things are fast. So, I don’t know how hard it would be to get eye of newt, but I can’t imagine they’d be as willing to give up their eye as they are their tails. But in case you’re curious like me, here’s some fun random info.
Obviously, there’s been a lot of preparation time as far as acquiring the ingredients. When I imagine a witch making a potion, it’s always at midnight, with a full moon. Maybe that’s because she just spent a week collecting the last ingredients and it’s in the middle of the night before she can finally start. Or maybe, she needs to be a little sleep-deprived in order to be crazy enough or brave enough to attempt the uncertain process. But she’s got to be singing and dancing around her cauldron so maybe the late night is what allows the silliness.
The next thing I know about witches making potions, is that sometimes they can whip it up really fast, and other times it’s a long process. A witch could spend hours stirring her cauldron while everything simmers, adding ingredients at just the right moment. Sometimes a potion requires pre-made potions to be added. Or something had to be aged a certain amount of time. I imagine that potion making is quite a bit like canning, which I also feel relates to ideas, and I wrote about it here.
Making a potion is a big ordeal, and by the end of it you see the witch with one little vial from the cauldron full of colorful goo. The secret sauce had a whole lot of time and work put into it, and it doesn’t look like much, but it’s some powerful stuff.
We have a lifetime’s worth of ingredients from all of our experiences and stories we’ve been told. We get to pick and choose memories and thoughts at random to mash together. Sometimes it takes us being a little silly or crazy to make certain combinations. When our concoctions have enough time to marinate and simmer, they eventually might end up being a nice little potion. We can take that potion and have a really good, developed idea. With that, we can make a magical story.
Some ideas develop out of nowhere and others take some intense time and effort. But I feel there are some basic steps in coming up with an idea that’s ready to solve a problem or become a story.
First, you have to keep your eyes open, you never know when that newt will be chilling in your path, or when you’ll have the right experience or memory come to mind. You have to be curious enough to store things in a jar and try it in some combination. Some sleep-deprivation or some other kind of silliness may be required to put certain ideas together. You also have to be patient, your brain works on developing ideas over time.
Daydreaming is certainly an activity that would be considered ‘potion making’ and I find that I get quite a few potions out of journaling. There are more ways than one, some witches might make her potions during the day, in an anthill. Comment with ways you come up with ideas. I’d really like to hear them. And if you know anyone with writer’s block or who likes to write, share this with them. Share it with anyone who’s creative. And happy potion making!