Surviving your ebbs and flows...
Creatives: this week we are going to springboard again from our look at the creative cycle and creative personality character traits (if you haven’t already, I would recommend going back to look at the “Creative Personality Paradox” and the “Creative Cycle” posts for context) into some of the nuances in which it may impact you. Specifically: the ebbs and flows of creativity and birthing your creative work.
(I want to be sure to also introduce this concept with a clinical caveat: all human behavior exists on a spectrum, and most all behavior exists in some way in most people. When we call something clinical or diagnosable, we are saying certain behavior patterns become disruptive, and interfere with daily functioning in a certain way. When we talk about some of these creative energy cycles, I am talking about them as natural, not clinical. If you are unsure if any of these behaviors or cycles are disruptive or unhealthy for you, call me, email me, come sit in my chair- we need to talk about it.)
We know that one of the paradoxically occurring trait pairs in creative people is productivity/rest. We know from our exploration of the creative cycle that we naturally oscillate between these two states. What I want you to understand, Creative, is that having periods of intense productivity and creative energy is normal and natural to creative people. Don’t spend energy fighting or dousing it- embrace it and use it! What is also natural and normal is a period of rest and less interest and energy in your creative pursuits- you will not have this level of interest, inspiration and excitement in your work but for so long- and necessarily so- because creating expends energy.
Let’s consider two elements to this dynamic: reactivity and productivity:
Reactivity: you cannot indefinitely sustain an intense period of creative energy (imagine sprinting) natural energy laws dictate that in proportion to energy expended will be energy absence or opposed. In other words, you are going to need to rest after this push. That leads me to-
Productivity: by definition when you are creating something you are giving of yourself- your emotional, cognitive, neurological, physiological and other individual resources- you are partitioning some of these out to give birth to the new entity you are creating (think having a creative baby). This means you will be “less full” after you have done creative work, and will need to rest and restore yourself.
Do you ever enjoy a period of intense creativity- thinking to yourself, “Yes! This is the level at which I want to work! This is how I want to create/produce,” only to feel exhausted, unmotivated, uninspired and discouraged shortly after? Do you feel like you have failed because you cannot sustain the original creative push? I want you to know this is normal, natural, and to let it happen. To rest and restore is an important part of your creative process, and will allow you to more fully engage in the next flow of work.
What should you do during these lower energy, recovery periods? Creative people are emotional people. Too often what I see happening is that creative people punish themselves for the change in productivity, challenge the pieces they have produced and put them down, feel sluggish and anhedonia, and become depressed. They don’t know why they feel this way and blame and diagnose themselves. They may further deplete creative stores by trying to push through and back to the level of energy they were previously at without success and worsen their self esteem. This is obviously understandable, but what NOT to do.
During the “ebbs” of creativity, what is important is to replenish. This is a time to focus more fully on the healing process of creating, rather than product oriented work. Play in a new or different medium with childlike curiosity. Dabble in and get inspired by other creative works. Tap into what energy stores feel low and listen to your body’s wisdom on what it needs to replenish these.
There is no set length of time for ebbing and flowing creatively, not for groups of people and not even for individual people. You may experience any length of high and low productivity states. You will experience different strengths in your ebbing and flowing. Your task is to know yourself, recognize what you are experiencing, and pair it with the correct course of action. It’s a tangled web with lots of work attached- but so fulfilling, empowering and important to your ongoing wellness and longevity as a creative person.
Do I need to give you my usual invitation to come to my chair to begin this important work? Let it percolate. Look for examples within yourself. I invite you to take control and create your happiest self.
(C) 2018 Creatively, LLC
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is a Creativity Coach, Creativity Counselor and Professional Artist in Sykesville, Maryland. She provides Online Creativity Counseling in Maryland and Virginia, and Online Creativity Coaching throughout the USA, Canada and the UK.
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.