The Five Seasons of Imagination
I've been wondering about the nature of creativity. When I've read articles or books on the subject they all emphasise the writer's routine. And when I say routine, I mean what they do every day, no matter what, to write. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the way Hemmingway or Angelou writes and feel inadequate. I mean who has the energy to rise at dawn every single day or the money to pay for a hotel room in which to write?
The idea of the same routine day in day out is very linear and growth oriented. It treats us like machines, able to endlessly churn out sentence after sentence of glittering prose. But we are not machines. We are beings. What about the days when we are tired and just want to sleep? Or the days when we're too busy juggling chores and kids' homework? Or the days when we're going out with friends?
I think these books and articles do us all a great disservice. Yes, we do need to write frequently to build up material and improve our craft. But I don't think we need to write ten pages every day followed by a run around the block and a green smoothie. After all, we are not in flood every day. There are also lean times of drought. And everything in between.
Instead of thinking about creativity as a beast to master and whip into shape I think we need to treat it like the seasons of nature and allow for periods of growth and rest. I view creativity as a seed that starts with an idea. First we plant our idea by grabbing hold of it and giving it our full attention. Then we nurture it with curiosity and excitement. Once it starts growing we feed it ideas and information. Any mistakes we make along the way are compost to enrich the soil. When it has reached maturity it's time to harvest it by sharing with others or consuming it ourselves. Once the harvest is complete, it's time to grieve the place in our lives where the idea has lived for so long. And finally, we are fallow until the soil of our imagination is fertile once more.
We can be kinder to ourselves when we view creativity in this way. Instead of beating ourselves up for not being productive, we can recognise which season we are in and fully embrace and celebrate that particular season and its gifts. All the seasons are necessary for our creativity - planting, nurturing, growing, harvesting, grieving and resting. To promote growth over all others depletes the tilth of our imagination.