The Origin of Ideas
My podcast, Originality, belongs to the Relay FM podcasting network. Every August, for the network’s anniversary, many of the shows produce members-only bonus episodes for supporters of the network.
Because Originality is a show about creating and creativity, my cohost Tempest and I decided to definitively answer the question that gave us the inspiration for the show in the first place: Where do ideas come from?
We asked a bunch of friends and acquaintances to contribute. Participants included award-winning authors, playwrights, journalists, and others. Of course, Tempest and I also contributed.
What follows is the story I wrote. If you’d like to hear me read it or are interested to hear where other creative people get their ideas, you can still get the episode by becoming a Relay FM member and listening to episode 27 in the Members Only feed.
Long ago, before time even existed, Earth realized she was lonely. To ease this burden, she started creating. The air from her lungs formed the atmosphere and the sweat from her brown formed the sea, which grew deeper as she toiled to shape all sorts of creatures.
She made everything, from the smallest amoeba to all manner of leviathan. Over the eons, she made dinosaurs and mammoths and elephants, monkeys and great apes. She loved watching them grow and evolve, nurtured by other, more literal fruits of her labor. And while their antics brought her great joy and amusement, something was still missing.
While she could, and did, talk to her creations, they couldn’t respond in kind. They could roar and chatter and trumpet, but Earth couldn’t carry on a conversation with any of them. Eventually, she realized that what she really needed was companionship.
And so Earth created the first girl. Earth would cradle the child in her arms at night and whisper stories about the beginning of life and what mischief the tigers or spiders had been up to that day.
And how the child flourished! Under Earth’s watchful eye she would race cheetahs and play with newborn elephants and giggle with chimpanzees. She would catch bugs and frogs and watch them closely. Earth would laugh as she plucked twigs and leaves out of her child’s tight black curls, wash the dusty sand from her dark skin, and recount the day’s antics.
One night, Earth realized that her child never made things. No new animals sprang to life from the child’s hands, nor did she tell stories or construct toys. Earth thought about how much richer her life was for her creations, and she was saddened at the thought that her child may never have such an experience.
Earth cried great tears, creating lakes and rivers in the process. The night was so cold and damp that her child awakened, shivering and crying tears of her own from her discomfort.
Earth scooped up her child and, seeing what she’d done, reached to her heart and removed a single spark.
“Take this,” she told her child, “and place it in your own heart.”
The child did and was instantly comforted and warmed. Soon, she was fast asleep once again.
The next morning, the child played just like she had every day before. But, Earth noticed, the ground was littered with figures made from thick mud. The next day, Earth spied a lizard she’d never seen before. On the third day, the child told Earth stories about her day for the first time. Soon, she was making up tales so fantastic Earth could hardly believe they came from her child. And so the spark grew into a full flame.
Eventually, when Earth’s child created a child of her own, she made sure to include a spark from her heart’s own flame.
This is why, to this day, ideas are ignited from even the smallest spark.