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Cycles of Creativity

“A major obstacle to creativity is wanting to be in the peak season of growth and generation at all times . . . but if we see the soul’s journey as cyclical, like the seasons. . . then we can accept the reality that periods of despair or fallowness are like winter – a resting time that offers us a period of creative hibernation, purification, and regeneration that prepare us for the births of spring.” (7)

-Linda Leonard, from Call to Create : Celebrating Acts of Imagination

One of the greatest gifts of the seasons to me as a writer and artist is this profound wisdom of cycles, how everything rises and falls and then rises again.  When we are in a dry spell we may panic because the words or inspiration seems absent, but often it is a fallow time, a winter time of the soul to enter into some rest both inward and outward and allow time for the seeds to sprout again.

We live in a culture that demands continual productivity.  There is no room to honor these natural rhythms and we may begin to believe that our worth is determined by how much we can produce, how many books or painting or workshops we can create, or whatever it is that haunts you.  I sometimes wonder if all of the “creativity” titles that have been published in recent years feed into this phenomenon offering valuable inspiration but forgetting to honor the rhythm of the creative process. Yet, the winter periods will come and we can expend lots of energy resisting them at every turn, or we can gently surrender into them listening attentively for spring budding.

The Hours of the day offer similar wisdom as the seasons, the rise and fall of each day from sleeping to waking and sleeping again.  There is a time for awakening and rising and embracing the work of the day.  There is a time for slumber and dreams and renewal.

Which time are you in right now?

Do you resist the cycles of creativity?

When you enter a fallow period are you able to offer room for your soul to truly rest and renew?

 (c) Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts

(Mandala collage above created from an expressive arts process) 

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4 Responses

  1. I’m going through the articles listed in the Creative path offered on the site and I would love to hear more about the cycle (or seasons) of creativity. I’m beginning to pay attention to this rhythm in my own creative life, as an unworldly way to maximize my personal creativity. But I’m on the front side of learning, and listening, and recognizing this rhythm in myself. It can happen both in grand-terms of the year, but most often it happens in a weekly or even daily cycle.

    Anyway, would love to hear more of the signs of the seasons of creativity (ie. lack of inspiration / high inspiration) as well as how to weather these seasons (take a walk, push paint, gather new ideas, etc).

    I ask bc so many creative guru’s say “show up and do the work and don’t wait for inspiration.” That’s not quite accurate. Sometimes the work IS to rest, or gather more ideas. It’s not always about the next painting or book chapter or song… But not many are saying that.

  2. I would say my process is perhaps in the springtime right now, bursting forth with creativity! Finding the places to pause and rest feel very necessary, however, so I am refreshed and renewed when each new bud bursts open :-)

    I really appreciate these reminders of the cyclical nature of life! xoxo

  3. There is a place in the Gospels where Jesus curses a fig tree for not bearing fruit out of season. It is a disturbing example, and seems to teach all the wrong things, especially in regard to the environment. But in community I have heard people pray for the strength to bear the Fruit of the Spirit, “whether in season or out of season.”

    Sometimes it is the self-declared respite I long for, the meditation and prayer I seek to retreat to, that is interrupted in the flow of the Spirit, and then I am perhaps drawn to bear fruit, so to speak “out of season.”

  4. An interesting post Christine and you pose good questions, as usual.
    Yes I think for me there’s a danger in wanting to snatch and grab at all the shiny creative possibilities, without enough reflection.
    I am learning to leave space now rather than diving straight in to something.