Stanislaw Lem offers an interesting metaphor for the creative process (h/t: Taking Note):
‘A cow produces milk—that is certain—and the milk doesn't come from nothing. Just as a cow must eat grass in order to produce milk, I have to read large amounts of genuine scientific literature of all kinds—i.e. literature not invented by me—and the final product, my writing, is as unlike the intellectual food as milk is unlike grass.’ (Microworlds, p. 25)
I like this image. It is a useful reminder that creativity is rarely a matter of plucking ideas from the air. In its light my compulsive reading and note-taking becomes a matter of grazing: gathering the essential raw materials for the creative process. And the image also highlights the fact that writing of any value is never merely the regurgitation of what you have grazed. It is always about creating a new synthesis of the raw materials (milk rather than partially digested grass).