Which Creative Season Are You In?

"Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance."

Yoko Ono

When it comes to writers, there aren’t many concepts that apply across the board. Some writers enjoy developing characters the most, others like creating intricate plots. Some writers work well at night, others in the morning. Some find it helpful to share their work-in-progress as they go, others prefer to keep it close until it’s pretty much finished.

One thing that can be said for most writers, though, is that creativity ebbs and flows in seasons.

These seasons don’t necessarily correspond to geographic location; it could be winter outside the door and summer inside your creative mind. Just like in real life, these seasons can vary in length and depth. Your creative summer might span six months while your creative fall and winter span six weeks in total. It might change from cycle to seasonal cycle, too. You could even go through all of the seasons in the course of a month, or a week, or a long weekend!

What does fall look like?

Think like a squirrel: you’re gathering “nuts,” preparing for the long winter ahead. You want to be as well-stocked as possible, to stave off potential speedbumps, so much of your research, plotting, and organizing gets done now How much you do is unique to your writing process and your work-in-progress. This is the time to make sure you have everything you need to dive into your project come winter. If you already have a rough draft completed, you might be preparing for an editing journey instead. Gather your nuts accordingly!

You might pursue quests like …

You might battle monsters like …

The urge to continue researching until you know everything you think you need to know. Vanquish this monster by paring down your list of research questions to what you absolutely must know to write your rough draft, and figure out the rest as you go. (Trust me. I’m speaking from experience here, as someone who felt like she needed to read every book ever written and know every single fact about Victorian England for a work-in-progress …)

What does winter look like?

This is your time for hunkering down in a creative cave with your work-in-progress. You know what you’re working on, you have a plan of some sort, and your other creative pursuits have likely fallen by the wayside because you’re just so ready for this. There might be blizzards or icy patches along the way; when that happens, take it slow and steady, and refer back to your plan when need be. You’re ready to make some serious progress on your project, so honour that. Do what you can to enable your writing sessions as much as humanly possible.

You might pursue quests like …

  • Reaching a certain word count during each writing session
  • Having nightly word sprints with writing buddies, in-person or reporting in on Twitter
  • Making meals in a crockpot for future leftovers

You might battle monsters like …

Getting sick. If you feel like you’re coming down with a cold because you’re loading up on snacks and avoiding exercise like the plague, for fear of scraping even ten minutes away from your writing time, cut that out NOW! Vanquish this monster by building a little bit of time into each day to prepare healthy snacks and do twenty minutes of exercise, whether that’s a short walk or a workout on YouTube or some time with your yoga mat.

What does spring look like?

Take a deeeeep breath. You’ve worked so hard this winter, you deserve a scrumptious rest! Rather than jumping straight into something else, give yourself at least a wee bit of time to rest those aching typing fingers and stretch your muscles with some gentle yoga sessions. Give your mind a break, too. This is the perfect time to delve into that book that’s been waiting ever so patiently in your to-be-read pile, or to finish knitting the pair of socks that’s been languishing in your project bag. Refreshment and renewal are the key words for this creative season.

You might pursue quests like …

  • Reading, and maybe even finishing, a series you’ve been saving
  • Thirty days of Yoga With Adriene
  • Reconnecting with friends and family who waited patiently for you to emerge from your creative winter

You might battle monsters like …

Feeling that you should still be working hard, that resting means you’re lazy.  Vanquish this monster by looking at how much you accomplished during your creative winter and celebrating your triumph, either by yourself or with others who will understand and celebrate with you.

What does summer look like?

This is the season I’m currently in myself, so I could happily talk about it all day! (I think the season you’re in is always the best one, until you’re ready to move on.) A creative summer is about exploration and seeking joy in your creative pursuits. This is when you open your arms to the new ideas that have been clamouring for your attention and allow them all to have their say. This is when you spend day after day doing writing prompts about clowns and writing a haiku for the very first time just because you can. This is when you remember what it was like when you were younger, before your joy of writing was largely overtaken by doubt that your writing can ever be good enough or that you’ll ever “make it” as a writer.

You might pursue quests like …

  • Pulling out the story you abandoned ten years ago and changing up the characters
  • Going to a museum, picking two random exhibits, and connecting them in a short story
  • Brainstorming the story idea you had in a dream the night before
  • Writing a letter to one of your favourite authors

You might battle monsters like …

The belief that you're not a real writer if you're not always writing one novel and/or editing another. Being a writer, a real writer, has no qualifications other than writing. The only limits are the ones you set for yourself. Vanquish this monster by remembering that there's a season for everything and, by giving yourself this time to expand your creative horizons and dabble as you like, you're helping, not hindering, your creative quest.

Why does any of this matter?

Acknowledging the creative season you're currently in allows you to give yourself a priceless gift: the ability to do exactly what you want and need to do for your writing in that moment, without a sense of guilt or feeling like you should be doing something other than what you are doing. The time will come for all of it, because this process is cyclical. Take a deep breath and do something today to honour and accept the season you're in!