Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like An Artist, recently wrote a great post called Seasons. He describes how Corita Kent, an artist who lived in Boston, would sit and observe a maple tree in her garden change throughout the seasons:

For Corita, the tree came to represent creativity. In winter, she said, “the tree looks dead, but we know it is beginning a very deep creative process, out of which will come spring and summer.”

I started 2016 in a good place. I had slowly refined my daily work routine after months of practice and experimentation. I read Deep Work which rekindled my commitment to eliminating distractions. April was my peak. I wrote 30 articles in 30 days, culminating in over 30,000 words, while also working full-time on client work. I had never been more productive. It was summer in my world.

And then May rolled around and everything stopped. I struggled to write a single word. I was still sat at my desk for 7-10 hours a day (which was part of the problem), but the amount of time I spent doing anything of importance fell dramatically. I procrastinated at every opportunity possible.

I spent most of that month beating myself up. I’m fucking lazy, I’d tell myself. Why can’t you just sit and write? The self-talk was brutal. I knew I wanted to write, but I couldn’t physically do it.

Eventually, I realised what my mind was telling me: I needed rest. I was creatively burnt out. I was trying to force myself to say something when I had nothing to say. Not only was I not writing, but I wasn’t reading. I wasn’t waking early. I wasn’t sleeping well. The foundations of my daily routine had crumbled and yet I was expecting the same results.

There’s days, weeks, even months when the creative juices are flowing and I’m churning out good work. And then there’s times when I struggle to even pick up a pen, and I wonder if I’ll ever create anything meaningful again.

These are just seasons, and we all have them.

As Austin Kleon so wonderfully put it:

Creative work has seasons. Part of the work is to know which season it is, and act accordingly.

That last part is important: part of the work is to know which season it is, and act accordingly.

I gave myself permission not to create for a while. I acknowledged it wasn’t the time to create. I cut out the critical self-talk. I started reading again, starting going to sleep earlier, and exercising regularly.

It feels like it has taken an eternity, but I’m ready for my summer again.

Marc Jenkins Avatar

Hey, I'm Marc Jenkins. I run a small WordPress consulting studio called 16by9 where I build beautiful and easy-to-use websites for organisations of all sizes.

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