The Aquifer Theory of Creativity

Some time ago I meant to post about my theory of creativity but… I forgot. Now is a good time because I haven’t written anything for fun for some time – I have been too distracted in the business of daily living, which is extremely important but hopefully will quiet down soon.

My Aquifer Theory does not address how you become creative. Nature? Nurture? Mental Illness? I’m sure it varies from person to person and don’t know enough about that to comment yet.

In my theory, writing is like agriculture. You plant the seeds of the story and then you water them and they grow, and you water them some more, and… you have to keep watering them! (I wish I’d realized this before I killed my houseplants <sigh>)  And the water in this elaborate metaphor is creativity.

No, I don’t know what the sun or the earth is or what weeds would be, but the Bible has a good parable about something similar. 

Ah, good question. You get the water for the fields from wells, I imagine with buckets. There are no irrigation systems or canals or sprinklers in my metaphor.

Where do the wells get the water? Excellent thought…

Every person has an internal aquifer of creativity (an aquifer being an underground, refillable reservoir). Like a real aquifer, this reservoir of creativity can be refilled by experiences. Reading lots of books is a great way to fill the reservoir. Having unique, even painful, experiences. Good conversations, travel, retreats, meditation, workshops, long walks in the woods, lingering sunsets, a wine tasting, a concert, prayer – anything that engages the deeper mind. (Taking a Sabbath!) Being, not doing, is often the genesis of creativity.

So when the well runs dry it is not because you have sapped the aquifer. (This is where the metaphor diverges from real life where in fact you can dry out some aquifers, known as “fossil” aquifers, that are not recharged by precipitation). No, in the metaphor, you control the weather and you can add more rain that will slowly percolate into the aquifer.


“Hold on,” you’re saying. “Why can’t I just water the field with rain water?”

Why do you ask such tough questions…

Because the rain is the ACID rain of raw writing/experience and it has to be filtered through the clay and sand and tree roots in the ground before it is distilled into the wild, unbridled creativity that produces readable books and interesting dreams.

Otherwise, it might come out as plagiarism. Your “rain-grown” writing (or art) won’t have the perspective of “well-grown” writing.

Ah, you have a final question for me. “Where did you come up with such a (great/weird/elaborate) metaphor?”

In this case, I think my dad must have something to do with it. As a geophysicist who works with reservoirs and wells and fossil fuels, I think some of his shop talk must have “permeated” (hehe, pardon the pun) my developing ideas on creativity. 

Happy writing, everyone. And just remember, if you can’t write, it’s not that your well has gone permanently dry…

You need to refill the aquifer!!


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