After being a nun in Los Angeles for thirty years, Corita Kent moved across the country to Boston so she could live quietly and make her art. Her apartment had a big bay window and a maple tree out front, and she liked to sit there and observe the tree changing throughout the seasons.
For Kent, the tree came to represent creativity itself. Like a tree, creative work has seasons. Part of the work is to know which season you’re in, and act accordingly. In winter, “the tree looks dead, but we know it’s beginning a very deep process, out of which will come spring and summer.”
I’m a big fan of Austin Kleon. I have a short list of people I sometimes look to for inspiration, people with the right ideas about life and creativity, and I wouldn’t have heard of half of them (mr. Kleon included) if it weren’t for his books, blog and most excellent newsletter.
This really struck a chord with me (a run-of-the-millennial turd with depression issues and weekly therapy) because I’d noticed a similar pattern in my own ups and downs. I get these hypomanic, creative bursts, where I begin grand personal projects and pick up new hobbies. (See: “Clamberville”, getting a dumb-phone.) I can hardly think of anything else for a few weeks, then the feeling slowly dries up, projects left unfinished and hobbies abandoned until I bubble back into hypomania a few months later.
Austin and Corita’s season metaphor made me a lot less anxious about losing my pumpedness from time to time, since I started thinking of it like: “Hmm, guess that’s winter. Stop trying so hard, read something interesting instead.”
Looking at my journal, I can pinpoint the start of the latest “creative winter” to September 13th, when the writing suddenly stops. It lasted until some time mid-November. I usually recognize the spring now – which is important because it makes it easier to anticipate and deal with going nanners later – but this time I was too busy to notice the “the thaw” in time. Uh-oh.
Surprise! Summer’s here, in full bloom, and I swear I’m going to write, draw and RISO-print a sweet comic zine; getting deep into tropical fish and thinking of ordering at least one aquarium; still haven’t written a blog post since August and will burst if I don’t jot down something stupid about the horror novels I’ve been reading lately. (Phew)
So... It feels nice to be able to take a step back and go: “Aquarium? Really? Must be summer again – get the sketchbook!” Going to make the most of this one by not worrying about the 14 weeks of missing weekly blog posts, just start writing again, and make while it’s still summer.