Coffee and the spark of ideas

It’s been a long time between blog posts. The last one felt raw so I stepped back a while to work through the memories and thoughts that came back along with the words. I fell into work a bit as different deadlines loomed. All my words were caught up in those papers and reviews and presentations – referenced and careful and, with one presentation, playing with new ideas just to see how they worked. And the buzz when they actually worked well was incredible – I am so deeply an academic nerd. During this, I’d start to write something other than work when an idea sparked tangentially but never quite found the energy to last the whole thought.

It’s easy to forget sometimes how exhausting writing can be. Brilliant, no question, but it empties me sometimes.

So, as I’ve regained my energy, I’ve spent time in the sunshine when it’s appeared (or hiding from the snow and the grim, which has been slightly more common) and relished coffee with colleagues at my office – or at conferences where it was more likely dinner – where conversations stretch over ideas and run away with bubbles only to come back as something different or stronger or discarded. None of which are a negative outcome – much easier to work out an idea doesn’t work over coffee (there is always cake to commiserate with) than mid-way through a presentation when the person’s whose theory it is you’re playing with is watching.

(Hypothetically speaking – this only didn’t happen because of all the bubble ideas discarded over coffee).

There is something magical in finding colleagues and friends whose minds work – not necessarily the same as yours because then how would we ever be creative – but in a way that challenges and enquires and allows you to explore and discard with judgment. One of the things I will always love about this job is that I am never bored and I’m so often inspired to play with texts or ideas in new ways because – really, an idea that doesn’t work over coffee or in the draft stage doesn’t hurt anyone. All it means is that the next idea might get through those initial stages, might change as it’s presented to larger groups or people with the lived experience I’m exploring, might be reshaped and remoulded, but will be all the better for it when it finally steps out into the wider world.

Honestly, is there anything coffee can’t do? Or chai, or green tea? Because technically I’ve meant to have given up coffee inspired by That Space InBetween but it’s proving a truly difficult vice to shake.

The thing is though that inspiration can come from anywhere, and when you least expect it. New lines of poetry over text. Memories unearthed from a late-night comment. Skype meetings that happily jump from idea to idea. Someone new to spark ideas with. There’s a safety in all of this – that nothing has to be right immediately (or ever), rather the sparks simply have to be grasped to see whether they go back to the earth or turn into butterflies.

I am absolutely blessed to have colleagues who both like coffee and are equally as happy to play with the embers of an idea to see what spark remains.

Is it the same for you?

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