I have a theory:
Creativity is cyclical.

In my own work/life/business, I have these crazy full-of-ideas periods, followed by amazing get-stuff-done periods, followed by…today.
Stuckness, tiredness, I-don't-wanna-ness.

The cycle affects individual ideas (let's make a Learn to Knit kit!) and my  general, day-to-day creativity.

It starts with an idea, then a flow of ideas, then I get in the flow of making the ideas happen. This revving-up is my favorite part of the cycle. I would live here if I could.
I would camp here and do nothing but generate ideas and journal and plan all day long.
But then I get anxious to DO, to implement.

At the apex of the cycle is not just the flow of ideas, but the production, the work, the actual doing. In other words, creating.

But after that apex, as the projects continue to roll forward and the rush of ideas turns into a rush of details, sometime in the midst of doing, I slow.

And soon, the slowing is the overwhelming characteristic. No longer creating the thing, I'm either brunching (introducing the thing to the world) or I'm slowing down in the middle of the thing.

Following the slowing, comes the fallow period.

Despite being raised in the agricutural heartland, playing in cornfields, my days measured by the height of the corn: I haven't recognize or respect the fallow period until recently.

What does fallow even mean?

  • cultivated land that is not seeded for one or more growing seasons
  • undeveloped but potentially useful

I tried to ignore it.

Who wants to be “not seeded”?
Who wants “undeveloped”?

I tried to go right from the slowing, back to the doing.

But something in me resisted.
The ideas dried.
The inner pushpushpush halted.

I thought about napping.
I read for hours.
I baked, cleaned, strolled.

Before I recognized that this is a stage in the cycle, I kept pushing.
Pushing to get ideas.
Pushing to work on projects.
Pushing to work work work.
Pushing to get out of the un-doing and back to the doing.

But pushing got me nowhere.

Inexplicably, inexorably, unequivically the ideas came back.
First, just a trickle, then a stream and then a rush and I am back.
Back to doing, to planning, to creating.

Whether I push or not, my creativity cycled.
And, as Teresa said on Twitter today:

When you stop pushing it creates a vacuum that will fill back up with better ideas than you'd been pushing for!

When I recognize the fallow period, when I respect it, when I rest in it, I create a blank space, a well that is soon filled with ideas and energy.

Today, this week, I'm in a bit of a fallow period.
But it's ok, it's just part of the cycle.

18 Comments on The Cycle of Creativity

  1. Patty K
    April 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm (14 years ago)

    Oh wow. I admire your ability to write a post like this during a fallow period!

    I hear you on the cycles…this is so true for me too. I struggle sometimes to remember that it's helpful and necessary to rest during the fallow periods. As much as I know my cycles and that the creativity will return, it still feels a bit scary when it happens.

    I've been living in the other side of the cycle these past few days…and your comment on Twitter inspired me to write on the same subject. I am saving that post for my next fallow period – seems I am completely unable to write when it happens – and my poor blog gets neglected for days on end.

  2. gerri
    April 8, 2010 at 5:00 pm (14 years ago)

    amen sister! i constantly have to remind myself that being in a bit of a fallow period is ok. you'd think i'd remember, but it's a constant battle. well said.

  3. blondechicken
    April 8, 2010 at 7:00 pm (14 years ago)

    It IS a challenge to just be ok with it and to roll with it.
    I don't know that I'll ever get there!


  4. blondechicken
    April 8, 2010 at 7:04 pm (14 years ago)

    This was only written after a morning full of not-doing. Mindful, non-guilty not-doing.
    And then *bam* I was just ready to write it all down.

    More proof we have to respect the cycle!


  5. emily
    April 9, 2010 at 5:17 pm (14 years ago)

    i think you may have just summed up my creative life in a much more eloquent manner. I've been a bit stuck so it is nice to be reassured that it is normla.

  6. Cranky Fibro Girl
    April 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm (14 years ago)

    Thank you so much for this reminder. Which I should just probably go ahead and have tattooed to my forehead 😛

  7. blondechicken
    April 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm (14 years ago)

    Hey, that s not a bad idea! Maybe a little more symbolic, like a circle…or, oh! The refresh symbol on your browser!

  8. a_creative_life
    April 17, 2010 at 3:11 am (14 years ago)

    Oh, yeah. You just described my M.O. I resist those dang fallow periods, but ultimately I respect them and know they're a necessary part of the process.

  9. a_creative_life
    April 17, 2010 at 7:11 am (14 years ago)

    Oh, yeah. You just described my M.O. I resist those dang fallow periods, but ultimately I respect them and know they're a necessary part of the process.