It will begin like this: with the sudden irreverent bark of a dog on a cold snowy night; or with the lilting flight of a hundred starlings among the naked poplar branches, or in line somewhere, waiting for a cappuccino, when you pause to take note of what you’re actually thinking, and there it will be. An inkling. An image maybe, a string of notes, or perhaps a phrase.
I have a phrase in my head now, for example, that I’ve for a couple of months, rattling around like a magnet in a bucket, attracting fragments of things: filaments, filings, scraps.
That inkling will persist if you listen; until it becomes unavoidable and you have to stop wherever you are and take and admit: I have an idea! Then you will begin to wonder and ponder, record, and reflect as bits of the idea drift about in your subconscious like gorgeous saffron and vermillion coy fish moving slowly under the ice on a winter pond; moving just enough so that you know they still have a pulse, a vibration of life all of their own volition down there.
The days will gather upon themselves, until you feel the idea stirring with certainty, with urgency : a private equinox right there in the midst of your soul. And if you’re brave and passionate you’ll listen, and you’ll begin in earnest whatever work you must do.
You’ll ask for help. You’ll ask for answers. You’ll ask for time, and more time, and extra cups of coffee. You’ll clear your calendar as much as possible without the normal reluctance that you feel when pushing aside the “shoulds” and “musts” you are accustomed to always putting first.
And then there will be days, or months even, when all you want to do is dive into your work with passion and zeal and focus. This is the apex of the creative cycle.
This is when you are inclined to burn the candle at both ends; working one day of work, and another on your project; when you have perpetual paint on your fingers maybe, or a pencil behind your ear, or you feel naked without your laptop keyboard under your palms, and you don’t remember the last time you washed your sheets, and all you eat is whatever leftovers are in the fridge.
This is when the work that you’re doing becomes a force of it’s own. When even though the specter of failure rears its ugly head, and procrastination stalks you, you can shake it off with a certain courage and urgency, and get to the heart of what you intend. This is the time when all you want to do is the work you are in the midst of.
And then, as you near completion and the deadline looms, it’s possible that you’ll feel like the whole thing was a mistake. A terrible misjudgment of your abilities; a laughable mess of smithereens. It’s possible that you’ll wonder Who the hell do I think I am, anyway? And you’ll consider escape routes and worst case scenarios, and it will feel utterly impossible to finish. But you can, and you will...
This is part 1 in a series of posts I’ve been wanting to write for a while about creative cycles and how they affect me. My feeling is that these are very universal experiences, hence the second person voice which I fall back on naturally when I feel like it applies to you too!
I’d really love to hear your experiences about starting in on a cycle of creativity, and what happens throughout that process.
Next up in the cycle: Reaching the completion, celebration, loss and regeneration.