Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like An Artist, recently wrote a great post called Seasons. He describes how Corita Kent, an artist who lived in Boston, would sit and observe a maple tree in her garden change throughout the seasons:
For Corita, the tree came to represent creativity. In winter, she said, “the tree looks dead, but we know it is beginning a very deep creative process, out of which will come spring and summer.”
I started 2016 in a good place. I had slowly refined my daily work routine after months of practice and experimentation. I read Deep Work which rekindled my commitment to eliminating distractions. April was my peak. I wrote 30 articles in 30 days, culminating in over 30,000 words, while also working full-time on client work. I had never been more productive. It was summer in my world.
And then May rolled around and everything stopped. I struggled to write a single word. I was still sat at my desk for 7-10 hours a day (which was part of the problem), but the amount of time I spent doing anything of importance fell dramatically. I procrastinated at every opportunity possible.
I spent most of that month beating myself up. I’m fucking lazy, I’d tell myself. Why can’t you just sit and write? The self-talk was brutal. I knew I wanted to write, but I couldn’t physically do it.
Eventually, I realised what my mind was telling me: I needed rest. I was creatively burnt out. I was trying to force myself to say something when I had nothing to say. Not only was I not writing, but I wasn’t reading. I wasn’t waking early. I wasn’t sleeping well. The foundations of my daily routine had crumbled and yet I was expecting the same results.
There’s days, weeks, even months when the creative juices are flowing and I’m churning out good work. And then there’s times when I struggle to even pick up a pen, and I wonder if I’ll ever create anything meaningful again.
These are just seasons, and we all have them.
As Austin Kleon so wonderfully put it:
Creative work has seasons. Part of the work is to know which season it is, and act accordingly.
That last part is important: part of the work is to know which season it is, and act accordingly.
I gave myself permission not to create for a while. I acknowledged it wasn’t the time to create. I cut out the critical self-talk. I started reading again, starting going to sleep earlier, and exercising regularly.
It feels like it has taken an eternity, but I’m ready for my summer again.