Fallow time in creative life

Photo L Meyer

There’s something to be said for the quiet state of dormancy where little apparently happens

Bonnie Tsui

Creativity as a process is often a concept we take for granted. Either we have it or we don’t. And for those of us living a creative life as writers, artists, musicians, performers, and so on, those moments in our lives where we struggle to produce something, anything actually, become those times when we experience pain in a visceral way.

But just as in nature, there are cycles to creativity. Those times when we are not able to accomplish what we believe that we should, signal to us that it is likely time to step back and celebrate a change in focus to one of restoration and rejuvenation. Dr. Shelley Carson at Harvard University suggests that the creative brain is comprised of seven differing states. Learning more about how our creative process needs to unfold may be helpful at leading us to become more, rather than less productive, even if it seems that we are not doing anything.

Taking time to rest, to lay fallow, or to recognize when our brains are moving into what Dr. Carson has called an “absorb state” can be powerful. And a bit of a relief.

Knowing that it is okay to be quiet with our thoughts, to leave our projects alone for a period of time, to pay attention to the world around us simply taking it in can be a freeing experience. And by honouring the way our neurological needs should be met, the creative payoff in the long run is a welcome life lesson.

For me, there is something about the time when the leaves turn yellow and our garden beds are put to rest that I now recognize tells me that I need a bit of a breather. Long walks, free writing, playing with photography all combine into what I hope is a type of creative “vacation”. Rather than give in to anxiety about what I am or am not creating right now, this year I am hoping to nourish and prepare my brain for the writing work I hope to accomplish during the winter months.

Happy fall – stay healthy and safe!