Pablo Picasso said, “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”[i] Creating something new requires letting go of something old. The May 26, 2017 blog, “The Creative Process: Receiving What the Universe Brings” focuses, in part, on the idea of letting go (https://cathygrytting.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/the-creative-process-receiving-what-the-universe-brings/). Today’s post continues that discussion by examining the concept of incubation.
Among other meanings, Webster’s dictionary defines incubation as: the act of keeping an organism, a cell, or cell culture in conditions favorable for growth and development.[ii] For our purposes, incubation means providing favorable conditions for creating. Looking through the lens of a garden, setting an intention plants the seeds. Focusing attention on the intention fertilizes and waters the seeds. Letting go stimulates incubation.
However, a paradox arises as we hold our attention on the intention and simultaneously let go. The garden metaphor illuminates a stable stance related to these seeming opposites. From above ground, incubation is a period of no apparent growth even though much happens beneath the soil before the tender shoot pushes to the surface. Similarly, when we create, incubation is a time of purposefully letting go. These mental breaks allow connections to link-up below consciousness until new ideas arise in our awareness. Just as excessive fertilizer burns plants and over-watering drowns them, excessive mental activity burns-out the mind and crowds the spaciousness that liberates intuitive ideas. Creating demands that we maintain a balance between holding attention and letting go.
We cultivate incubation when we engage in mental rest. Some activities that promote incubation include sleeping, taking time with family or friends, being in nature, reading a book, watching a movie, or participating in physical activities such as walking, biking, dancing, showering, etc. Any pursuit that introduces a gap in our focused attention makes space for incubation.
The story of Elias Howe offers an interesting example of incubation occurring during sleep when a creative solution appeared in a dream:
Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1845. He had the idea of a machine with a needle which would go through a piece of cloth but he couldn’t figure out exactly how it would work. In his dream, cannibals were preparing to cook him and they were dancing around the fire waving their spears. Howe noticed at the head of each spear there was a small hole through the shaft and the up-and-down motion of the spears and the hole remained with him when he woke. The idea of passing the thread through the needle close to the point, not at the other end, was a major innovation in making mechanical sewing possible.[iii]
Just as nature supplies the sun, rain and decaying matter that fertilizes our gardens, the Universe contributes elements that expand the possibilities for our creative outcomes. Go for a run or take a nap and witness how the Universe partners with you as you create.
Picasso photo courtesy of Google
Bed photo courtesy of freeimages.co.uk