You cannot pour from an empty cup.
There are seasons that, when we fail to properly identify them, their coming and their passing, will confuse and defeat us. Seasons of creation, of youthful eagerness, of bitter defeat, of stifling emptiness, of rebirth. They come and they go; we must remember to track them. To outlast them. To plot our course and keep our place.
Our journeys are circular, but not unending. We cycle through the seasons, emerging each spring with more depth and craft. Until we stop. Some of us keep going, rising and becoming. Some of us check out in time. Suspended and spinning our wheels. Sometimes happily, often profitably.
There is noise. Noise the others make when they check out, meant to distract you. A way of treading water, keeping a foot in the door. Noise your mind creates to fill you with doubt or fear. The noise of uncertain silence. Do not listen.
“When you’re young, you prefer the vulgar months, the fullness of the seasons. As you grow older you learn to like the in-between times, the months that can’t make up their minds. Perhaps it’s a way of admitting that things can’t ever bear the same certainty again.” ― Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot
infallible laws of creation.
The principal law of creation, as I see it, is this: If you keep moving, keep standing, you will keep creating. If you resist the temptation to believe a lull is forever, if you do not settle into the trench and make a life there, you will live to create again.
Accept that the creative process, for all of its seasons, is not constant or linear. Accept that this is true for everyone. You are not being punished or forgotten. You are exactly where you are meant to be. Your name will be called when it’s time to move again.
Know that you will sometimes have to work through it, or in spite of it. Going through the motions to keep the lights on, or bide your time. It won’t be easy, but you won’t be alone. At any given moment, there are many of us walking through these woods.
How we waste
We study them, stare out beyond them
into bleak continuance,
hoping to glimpse some end. Whereas
our wintering foliage, our dark greens
of meaning, one
of the seasons of the clandestine
year — ; not only
a season –: they’re site, settlement,
shelter, soil, abode.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies
the art of dormancy and the threat of inspiration
They call it burnout, but it’s simple evolution. A predictable, inevitable winter after some delicious bloom. A period of rest after weeks, months, or years of creative output is necessary. Prepare for it as you would any season. Imagine this dormancy as part of your craft. Perfect it.
Insist, at the sight of inspiration, on seeing the years of work behind it. Visualize late nights, stack the years of practice like rough bricks, picture the things that withered in the wake of sacrifice. Recognize beauty, and immediately remind yourself of its price.
If you want it, it’s yours. In time, with diligence. Creation requires dormancy, just as spring requires winter.
Have patience, be fearless.