The Cycles of Creativity

My creativity comes in ebbs and flows.

I used to think that I was failing as an artist if I wasn’t consistently producing work. As soon as I had finished an image or called a series of photos complete I was looking for the next idea and this often left me frustrated and unable to create, feeling that my brain had nothing left to say.

There are artists who have the ability to generate an uninterrupted flow of inspiration and as hard as I’ve tried, I’m not one of them.

What I’ve realised recently, from documenting my creative process over a number of years is that my inspiration follows a very specific pattern and, when I look at the nature of my work and the concepts that I’m drawn to exploring, it makes a lot of sense.

My personal work flow cycles definitively throughout the year, integrated in with the changes in seasons.

It begins around March where I generally produce a number of new images, exploring styles, techniques and new ideas. In Australia, March signals the beginning of Autumn, a time when the seasons are stripping back and preparing to withdraw into Winter. It’s generally a time of retrospect and reflection. My photography is largely motivated by processing emotions, feelings and events and this is the time when my mind is in the optimal space for doing this.

From March through to somewhere around May I shoot frequently and produce many new images. From May onwards tends to be when I will work on series, exploring particular concepts on a deeper level. By mid-July I find my ideas start to thin out and August is often a frustrating month of desperately trying to drag out the last dregs of motivation. I’m not a Winter person. I have a chronic pain condition that flares up in the cold. My bones ache and the lack of natural light causes a definite shift in my mood.

Then, September arrives and with it the days start to become warmer and longer. Everything begins to awaken again. This is the time when I usually put my camera down, at least in terms of creating art, though I still try to capture memories and moments during this time.

Through Spring and Summer there is a definite and deliberate lull in producing finished pieces. This is the part of the year when I feel most alive, the most connected with people and nature. Summer here covers the festive season as well so there are plenty of social engagements, holidays, day trips and long days soaking up warmth, air and light.  

My photography has always been personally motivated, based on my own experiences and feelings. In order to create from life, there has to be a period where I allow myself to actively engage in it and that is what my Spring and Summer months are for. Come February, when the seasons prepare to turn back towards Autumn, all the inspiration and experience I have gathered forms the basis of the new work I will produce as the cycle begins again.

I am a creative person, and that creativity never goes away, it just manifests in different ways at different points. I gather material to draw from, then I process and interpret it through the lens. Both parts of this are integral to what I create, without either of them the process would be incomplete.

I’m hoping now that having recognised this natural flow, and understanding the reasons behind it, will help me come to a new level of acceptance and appreciation for how I create as well as a little more tolerance and grace for the times when I’m not actively producing new images.

Does your inspiration come in waves or cycles?

Has understanding these patterns made your creative practice stronger?