I have been eating vegetables for almost sixty years now. Last year, for the first time in my life, I experimented with growing them myself.
This was a new and very timid adventure for me. I bought the seeds, read the instructions on the back of the packet at least ten times, and then, with the trepidation suitable for your first-ever parachute jump, I went out into the garden, made a little line in the soil, and sprinkled my seeds into the furrow. I brushed the soil back over to cover them up.
Then I prayed fervently. Several times a day, I went back to the garden anxiously waiting for progress. It took every flicker of self-control I could muster to stop myself from digging them up to see how they were getting on. Finally, after ten agonizing days … a miracle. Tiny, tiny, shoots of green started to poke their way through the soil in search of sunlight.
All glory, glory, glory, hallelujah.
For days and weeks I watered them, I sang to them, I shaded them against too much sun, and then I climbed and pruned trees to ensure my vegetables had enough sun. After a few weeks, I invited Chameli to join me in the vegetable garden to marvel at the miracle together. She knew full well just how important this was to me. She cooed at the sight of the two little ears of the zucchini plant. She laughed with delight at the small tomato plant. And then she took a step backwards and planted her foot firmly on a row of carrots.
I screamed, at the top of my lungs, just as one might do witnessing mass infant genocide. Of course, she immediately removed her foot, apologized profusely, and offered up various forms of lifelong atonement. I know that she had no conscious or unconscious intention to murder my babies. She stepped on the carrots that day because they were very small and … wait for it … here comes the punchline … they looked almost exactly like weeds. Unless you had, like me, made this vegetable garden the very center of your universe for weeks on end, it would be quite difficult, to the undiscerning eye, to notice the difference between those tiny green carrot leaves and an ordinary garden weed that grows everywhere.
It is just the same with creative flow.
There are so many random, crazy, chaotic, and absolutely totally and completely irrelevant thoughts bouncing around in our heads each and every moment. They are mostly distractions from the creative process: small shoots to be weeded, not watered.
Just a few of them, if you know where to look, are actually original creative impulses.
How on earth are you going to tell the difference between a thought which is a weed and an impulse originating directly from the mind of God? The answer is by becoming, like I did, interested in gardening. You need to spend time in the garden, playing in the soil, getting familiar with what’s going on at that very fine level. Then, and only then, you know what to weed out and what to nurture.
You just read an excerpt from my latest book, Radical Brilliance. If you like what you just read, and want to explore these themes more deeply, you can read more excerpts of the book on my website, or grab a copy for yourself here.