Of Slumps & Stagnation
If we do creative work - and we all do - then we will have creative slumps.
The writers have their blocks. The designers and comedians have their dry spells and the managers and engineers have their stalls where it’s just not working.
I used to blame myself for these slumps. What am I doing wrong? Why’s all my work so stinking stale and formulaic?
Shockingly, self-recrimination did nothing to get me out of the hole.
But recently, I’ve come to believe that slumps are part of the creative process. And not just any old part, but essential to the creative process.
When I’m slumping, the need to expand and explore is urgent. Whereas when I’m really cooking, not much compels me to go beyond where I am.
Pretty consistently, creative stagnation - awful as it feels - is what boots my work to a new level, a level I couldn’t get to without the fierce clawing that stagnation drives me to. It’s led me to reading recipes and unsung early 20th century writing for new language, listening more closely and walking more slowly for new insight. And somewhere in the murk and fumble, the lid gets blown off my creative repertoire.
What if when a slump arrives, we treat it as affirmation that we are doing creative work. What if we resist the temptation to self-blame and redirect attention to exploring new sources of inspiration. And what if we trust. Trust that this is part of the process. Trust that we are where we need to be, will get where we need to go. Which is to say: what if we trust ourselves.
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