Seasons of creativity

There are a few distinct stages in the creative process, and they come in cycles, at least for me. Sometimes they align with the seasons, and sometimes they are seasons of their own. Each may last a day or a few weeks, months or even a year, but each has its own delights and challenges. The first is the beginning of an idea, a project, or a concept, and it often looks a lot like spring. New directions and possibilities are blossoming all over the place, and inspiration pops up around every corner. This is my favorite creative season, because in it, everything seems possible. The challenge is choosing which path will be yours and letting others fall away, gathering enough momentum to sustain you for the journey ahead.

What follows (one hopes) is a long, hot summer of productivity. If spring seemed bright, summer feels too bright, lit by the harsh florescent glow of long hours at the office or studio or in whatever sort of incubator your work requires to take shape. Here the challenge is showing up each day with new energy, even though you’re a bit dehydrated from the day before, and brushing off the negative spirits (both internal and external) who insist you’d be much better off spending the summer at the beach.

The afterglow of completion is something like autumn. There is a chance to harvest the fruits of your labor, which have inevitably turned out quite differently, for better or worse, than what you intended when you first imagined them back in the spring. There is a moment of exhaustion, then relief, then joy. Take time for celebration here. This season is the most fleeting.

I think you know where we’re headed at this point. The winter of creativity is strange and disorienting. It is the season I most wish I could pass right over—and sometimes I do—skipping right from an end to a new beginning. But this is a sort of fallow period for the creative body and soul, and though it’s uncomfortable, it offers the potential for restoration.

When I began writing this column a few months ago, I was just settling into life in a new city and increasingly swept up in planning a wedding. Now that my world is awash in brightly colored leaves and the glow of autumn, it feels like I can safely call this place home, and the wedding has passed into the category of a shared memory. I am wondering where I’ll redirect all of that creative energy next and hoping I won’t have to endure too much of a winter to figure it out.

How about you? Does your creative process come in cycles? Where are you at on your creative journey?