Fallow Periods & Creative Nourishment

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Inspiration comes and goes in the course of the creative life. Sometimes I feel jazzed and intensely driven - sometimes I'm at a bit of a loss. I've been an artist long enough to not feel threatened by creative downtime. I know it's just a natural part of the rhythm of things. It's an opportunity to recalibrate, to check in with myself and see what needs tending, to rest.

I strongly believe in the importance of creative input. We can't produce all the time or we'd probably go crazy. We need time to stop, to look around, to read, to experiment, to think new thoughts instead of churning over old ones. Whenever I feel creative lassitude creeping in, I know it's time to nourish myself with inspiration from other sources. That always lights me up. 

It's so common for artists to berate themselves when they're unsure of their next steps, when they're not producing (or not producing to their expectations). What if we were to shift our view of fallow periods and approach them with a sense of openness and curiosity? What if we welcomed them in? How would it feel to embrace the spaciousness these periods bring?

I always think uncertainty is a necessary part of the creative process. It would be tiresome to be certain all the time - and no one would invite us to parties. I'm thinking now of what Nietzsche says about certainty: it's never truly available to us, and why struggle to secure a tiny handful of it, when we can have cartloads of glorious possibility? I'll take the possibility, every time. I like to think of fallow periods as incubators for new growth. We wander around for a while dabbling in this and that - and then we hit on the next big thing. 

Lately, I've been more overworked than anything else. I've been pushing too hard on my projects, forgetting to come up for air. I need a forced fallow period. And so, I'm taking most of the week off to read and watch storms roll in over the Pacific Ocean. On deck: Lila, the fourth book in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead series; Beyond Good and Evil, because I kind of have a nerd crush on Nietzsche right now; Fortune Smiles, Adam Johnson's dark new short story collection; Buddhist Psychology by Geshe Tashi Tsering, a look at the many ways our inner climate shapes our reality; and, because I love the way poets talk about the creative process, Mary Oliver's gorgeous meditation on art and life, Upstream. I have an afghan handy and a warm dog at my feet. I'm primed to soak in a little possibility. 

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One last thing. While I'm chatting about creative nourishment, I want to mention Gathering Light - my online photography salon. If you're searching for some extra inspiration to encourage your next steps, and if you could use a little company on the creative path, it might be the perfect next thing. One participant said she thinks of it as a special treat she gets when she finishes her work each day. It really is like a little nugget of goodness, a warm brownie of inspiration, a creampuff of creativity...I love it so much. Gathering Light includes regular doses of photo inspiration (interviews, creative exercises, discussions about living the creative life) and a sweet, supportive forum for sharing images and receiving feedback. You can jump in today and get all the October content in one fell swoop. If it's dark and rainy where you are too, it might add a dash of extra light to your day.

Ok - back to my books and tea. Hope you have a restful day out there!

 
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