Creative kindness practitioner, Rhiannon Adler, joins us for the latest instalment of This Creative Life and shares her thoughts on our inner creative seasons.
Do you find that, some days, you hit your creative flow easily and, yet, other days, getting into ‘the zone’ feels like wading through treacle? I certainly do. Perhaps, like me, you’ve also tried to push through the sluggishness on those slow days, only to find that what you create is missing your usual spark. On the surface this can make no sense, but it can become clear when we put our creativity in the context of seasons.
Creativity is often spoken about as though it’s a constant, unwavering energy in our lives, something we need to try harder to tap into. But when I looked at how creativity has shown up in my life, I discovered that the opposite seems to be true. Rather than being something fixed, creativity ebbs and flows in our lives, changing from day to day, and moving through different phases which I like to talk about as creative seasons.
We can understand creative seasons in much the same way as nature’s seasons. There are four stages – spring, summer, autumn and winter – and each brings its own unique quality to our creativity. The idea of seasonal and cyclical living is by no means a new one, but I believe that looking at creativity through this lens can also bring new insights into our everyday lives.
If we look to the creative seasons to help us understand our ups and downs, we can bring more awareness and acceptance into our creative practice.
Creative seasons are not the same as the creative cycle, a widely known framework for understanding creativity. It is useful when considering creativity as a process, but it doesn’t give us the full picture. Creativity is more than a process. It is an energy. Something you can tangibly feel in your body and tap into. It might even feel alive.
What’s more, creativity isn’t a constant in our lives. Sometimes we might be full of ideas and itching to make things. Other times, the creativity just… doesn’t want to come. The proverbial tumbleweed blows across the desert of our creative minds. Simply thinking about it might be a bit scary, and understandably so. As creatives, we can hold incredibly high expectations of ourselves, believing that we should always be brimming with ideas or full of the creative flair that enables us to make beautiful things. When you think about it, it’s a lot to wish of ourselves, and yet it’s so easy to fall into negative thoughts that we’re rubbish, or failures, when we don’t meet those internal standards.
If we look to the creative seasons to help us understand our ups and downs, we can bring more awareness and acceptance into our creative practice. And that, in turn, can help us become more creatively prolific and productive. Let’s have a closer look at these creative seasons to understand how.
Spring: the season of ideation
Spring signifies new life. You are in full flow and might feel renewed energy for projects old and new. A brilliant time for brainstorming and catching any ideas that pop up, it’s also a time to converse about potential work and simplify existing tasks. My favourite thing to do in my creative spring is write down any little zing of a concept that flashes past and let myself explore it for a page or two in writing. The trick with spring is to remind yourself that not every idea has to turn into a finished product. It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of a new thing and drawn down the rabbit hole before you’ve really checked in with yourself about whether it’s something you want to do.
Summer: the season of making
As the season we are most likely to associate with creativity, summer is the time of doing. It’s when those juicy creative urges come along and you hit that oh-so-yearned-for flow. It’s the good stuff. I imagine you can quite easily picture your creative summer and how it manifests in your life. It’s probably the most talked about part of creativity. But what isn’t often talked about is the shadow-side of creative summer, where your energy can easily tip into overwork and overwhelm. Some people struggle to stop and rest or even sleep or eat, which can lead to burnout. Remember that it’s ok to slow down in your summer. Rest amplifies creativity. It doesn’t take from it.
Autumn is the creative season for slowing down, looking inward and making sure our creations are aligned with our direction.
Autumn: the season of reflection
Perhaps the hardest to recognise since it can be very subtle, autumn is a time for slowing down, looking inward and making sure our creations are aligned with our direction. You might find that you are drawn to reviewing or completing projects as your creative energy wanes. You may even notice creative autumn as being when your self-doubt is strongest. Rather than trusting your ideas and trusting the process, you may be plagued by fears about your abilities and whether something is good enough. When this happens, it’s time for a bit of self-care. And I mean true self-care. Ask yourself how you’re feeling and what you need right now, and give it to yourself.
Winter: the season of rest
In winter, creativity hibernates and demands we rest. Our reserves are depleted, and need filling up again. You might find that you have little enthusiasm for making or doing and struggle to get going. We often fight this, telling ourselves that we should be creating, especially in a society that promotes productivity so much over relaxation, but to reach the creative high of our summer, we need balance. When we ignore this need and continually push through, risking burning ourselves out for much longer periods. So whatever leaves you feeling nourished and inspired, take the time off and do it. It’s not a luxury. It’s an essential.
Hopefully you can see from this overview that each creative season has its own unique energy and creative gifts to offer us. You might be able to relate easily to it, or you might not, and either way, that’s totally okay. The idea of the seasons isn’t fixed or guaranteed to be the same for all of us. We will all have our own individual experience of how creativity shows up in our lives. The best way to understand how it manifests for you is to bring a gentle curiosity to your experience by simply noticing what you notice.
The starting point is a big dose of self-kindness. To really allow yourself to explore your creative seasons fully, try to recognise and release any inner judgements and criticism you are holding over yourself – including what you believe your creativity should be. Much easier said than done, I know, but it can be distilled into something perhaps a bit easier to take away: see if you can follow the flow of what your creativity is telling you in any given moment. When you sense ideas bubbling, try to make space for that. When you feel the urge to create, follow that too. When you can’t contemplate creating and need rest, let yourself rest without beating yourself up. If you lean into the seasons rather than fight them extraordinary things can happen. Try it and see.
You can explore this further on Rhiannon’s blog about Creative Seasons. Rhiannon is a nature-loving, smile-giving, art-making, tea-drinking, creative kindness practitioner living in the hills of the south-west UK. She collaborates with other artists on wellbeing projects and facilitates spaces for kind-hearted people to embrace their innate creativity.