Do you feel as though you’ve hit a creative rut? That it’s time for something new, but you’re not sure what?
Or perhaps you’re feeling like there’s too much on your plate, or that there aren’t enough important things on your plate.
seasons of creativity
This blog is, in part, an in-process record of my journey answering those questions.
At the time of writing, those questions don’t have a definitive answer. But I have moved on to more direct questions.
This journey began with hopes of adding something…more to my life. Or, perhaps I should say, something more and something less all at once. How could I add more meaning and have fewer things to do? More worthwhile things and fewer “things to do”?
For the present, this post is my answer.
And I hope it provides some answers for you as well.
In this post, I talk about the seasonal nature of the creative cycle and how we have to allow for all of the stages of the creative process to bring about new growth.
I hope that on this journey together, I can help you to ask the right questions. Because with the right questions, you can find the answers you seek inside yourself.
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the big questions
We’ve all seen how short our lives can be. We know that there’s not time to do everything we might want to do. So how do we narrow in on the best uses of our time? How do we make time for the simple things, the small joys, the kind of joys that can fill our days?
There have been many times in the past few weeks when I thought about stepping away from writing full-time to do something more lucrative, at least for now. I wanted the time and the space to pivot my business, to find a new creative direction forward, one that felt true to the person I’m becoming and not so much who I had been before.
As fate would have it, over the past few weeks, I have also run into several people who are well paid for their work but hate their jobs. One person described her job as “golden handcuffs” from which she struggled to walk away in spite of knowing that she wanted to be doing something else. Another said that she had recently gotten a raise at work, and that raise helped drive home for her that no matter how much they paid her, she would never be happy there; it would continue to be a life-drain.
Almost a year and a half ago, I stepped away from work that I didn’t love to write. I feel very blessed to have been able to take that step, and I feel just as lucky and thankful that you’re reading these words now.
Those two conversations reminded me so vividly of what I don’t want: to be trading my time for money and not enjoy how I’m spending my time. Right now, that decision brings with it other necessities, namely, waiting. I can’t do all the updates and fixes and personalizations on my new house that I would like, but that’s alright. I would rather enjoy how I spend every day.
And I want to be clear: I don’t think that will always be the tradeoff I need to make. But it is the choice before me right now.
When I started writing full-time, we were replacing my stipend as a teaching assistant. I don’t say that to belittle what I’m making now or was making then, but I also don’t want to make anyone reading this feel like their dream of writing (or other form of creating!) full-time is forever out of reach. I’ve done a lot of work on my money mindset, and I think that work is incredibly important, perhaps especially so for creatives. There will come a day, as I create more things, when I’ll be making significantly more as a creator than I am at the moment. And that day will arrive much faster if I can wait on things like taking down the very old wallpaper now.
a book recommendation
I’ve recently finished an amazing book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman, that I’ve been recommending to everyone I can manage.
My favorite takeaway from this book is about the story we’ve all heard about the teacher who brings in the bowl with the rocks and sand and pebbles and water. The teacher asks the students to fill the bowl, and of course they do it in the wrong order, and not everything fits. The teacher then points out that if they had filled the bowl with the rocks first, they would have been able to fit everything in.
But in this book, what Oliver Burkeman so brilliantly makes clear is that we cannot fit everything in. It’s a false analogy. We’re surrounded by far too many large rocks, each of which are things we want, things we could do, things we’re gifted in and around.
I especially recommend the audiobook of Four Thousand Weeks. I love Burkeman’s accent, and he was an engaging and enjoyable narrator.
At the end of the day, we have to choose which large rocks to have in our bowl. And we can swap them out as time goes on. But we have to make the choices.
from rocks to seasons
That’s what I’ll be doing over the next few weeks. I’m calling it a “creative pivot.”
I recognize that for some of the rocks in my bowl, the time has come for a change. Like the time of year in which I’m writing, they’re in an autumn period. It’s time for some pieces to fall off and die so that something new can take their place.
There’s something really important in this shift in metaphor that I want to make sure you catch: We do not move straight from autumn into spring. There’s a seemingly dormant phase in the winter, when the fallen leaves of autumn cover over the earth, and beneath its surface, unseen, seeds germinate, and new life stirs. Months pass before that new life emerges, and it needs that period of dormancy to create the pale green rush of spring.
It’s hard to “trust emergence,” as one of my favorite creatives Joanna Penn urges. But I know from other life transitions that if we can have the patience, and more than that, the bravery, to let the old pass on and to give the new time to emerge, if we can trust and hold fast during the frost-ridden, barren fields of winter, the new that we’re waiting for, hoping for, will emerge.
I cannot promise that what you expect to emerge in the autumn will look the same as you’d envisioned come spring. But I can promise that it will be so worth the waiting.
Questions for Reflection
- What meanings do the seasons and their changing hold for you?
- Are there any areas of your life where you’re resisting the seasonal, cyclical process of creation?
- Identify the part of your life where you’re experiencing turmoil (resistance or frustration). What season is that part of your life in?
- What do you need to let go of, to allow to pass on, to allow for a period of dormancy?
- What do you hope for, or dream of, for the new growth of the spring, following a fallow period? Be as specific as you can, but don’t force this answer. Your response may be an emotion or a sense moreso than something concrete. Another way of putting this question to yourself would be: “What do you hope this new spring growth will make possible or bring out for you?”
I hope these questions are fruitful for you. Please leave any thoughts or questions in the comments below.
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