Why Your Creativity Feels As Barren As A Tree In Winter

A Tree In Winter
image: dancoachcreative

There are times when it feels like our creativity is in full bloom like spring blossoms, and every day, every hour, a new bud bursts forth. Our branches are laden, our leaves bright and succulent, the sun warms our bark and the sky is blue as far as we can see. Beautiful times.

But it’s likely that just as often, maybe more often, your creativity looks and feels more like a barren tree in the depths of a harsh midwinter. There’s no trace of bud, leaf or blossom, just the haggard silhouette of weary branches constantly buffetted by icy cruel winds.

It’s during these times that we wonder if we’ll every see any signs of new life, new ideas and new creations every again.

There are two connected issues here I wanted to talk with you about.

Firstly, every artist has her seasons.

It’s simply not possible to be creating endlessly at full flow for days, weeks, months on end. We all need rest and downtime, however much we’re enjoying our creativity.

Like nature has its seasons, as artists we have our seasons too. They may, or may not, align with nature, but nevertheless you will experience times during your creative life that feel like spring, summer, autumn and winter.

This is perfectly ok and natural, and necessary.

There’s no such thing as an endless summer of creativity, because projects come to an end, inspiration is higher at some times than others, and many other factors influence how creative we feel.

When we do experience the barren winter times, it allows us to regather our strength, and plan for the following spring. Because the spring will always follow winter.

This idea of seasons is true for our entire creative lives, as well as for each individual project.

The creative process begins with an idea, like a new bud in springtime. This blossoms into full flower as we go into the summer season of the project. The autumn comes, and the project is complete, we offer it to the world and learn to let go, as it falls away from us like leaves fall from the trees. Then in winter, we rest and recuperate, and plan for the new spring, with another bud of an idea to nurture. And so the cycle begins again.

Enjoy every season, and experience them to their fullest.

The second point is only you can help your tree blossom again.

In nature, how do the trees get their new leaves in spring? Do tiny elves go around secretly in the dead of night, with armfuls of green leaves and buckets of glue, attaching the leaves to the naked branches of the trees?

Thought that would make a lovely story, it’s not actually what happens.The leaves sprout from within, they come from the tree itself.

They grow because the tree has sunlight and water and carbon dioxide, and then can grow new leaves. Everything was already there within the tree, it just needed the nurture and encouragement of the sun and water to push those new little leaves out into the world.

For us to grow new leaves, to manifest new creative ideas, to give birth to new creative projects, we too need this kind of nurture.

We can’t just sit around waiting for the elves to show up with their arms full of new leaves.

We must constantly be open to new inspiration and ideas, do the things, follow the routines, and go the places that give us fresh stimulation, and keep our creative minds ever turning.

A couple of questions to leave you with:

Are you aware of your own creative seasons? How do each of them feel?

What do you do to keep yourself inspired and stimulated and having new ideas?

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8 thoughts on “Why Your Creativity Feels As Barren As A Tree In Winter”

  1. Creativity is sometimes just pure hard work and sweat. When that flow doesn’t come as easily it can be frustrating. Remembering that creativity comes in peaks and troughs helps with the anxiety.

    I believe in those moments, after you’ve rested, action is the only way to get the engine started again.


  2. I agree Koby, and it takes time (maybe years) to find our own creative cycles, peaks and the best way to freely flow.

    Being patient and resting when we need to is as important as the full on creative energy times…


  3. Dan
    Another beautiful post from you, thank you.
    As a ‘creative’ myself, and surrounded by them in my life, I notice that the ‘fallow’ period as I call it is often a period of great anxiety and uncertainty for many. And that this anxiety often stalls into a kind of epic procrastination and, even depression.

    But the question is – I wonder whether trees feel sad in winter too? Do they *know* they’re going to come to life in Spring? Or do they burst forth into bud again as an enormous act of courage after a winter of worrying they won’t ever bud again?

    Maybe it just looks easy…


  4. Thanks for your thoughts Jody.

    Fallow period is a good term for it, like letting the soil rest and recover and regain its nutrients before new seeds are sown and a new crop is grown and harvested. In any kind of farming these needs to happen, or the soil gets completely expended and exhausted and nothing will grow.

    If we accept that this is all part of the creative process – for each project, and in life overall – then there doesn’t need to be that panic and anxiety and feeling of “my creativity’s all dried up and I’ll never be able to create anything worthwhile every again!!” won’t arise.

    In fact these times are another experience we can draw on TO be creative, another collection of feelings we can call upon to enrich our artwork.

    That’s a wonderful question about the trees…

    I wonder if maybe during a tree’s first winter it has that worry and anxiety, then the following winter it knows that spring will follow, so just rest and enjoys each season for what it is… 🙂


  5. Great metaphor, Dan!

    It took me a long time to acknowledge my own creative cycles. I think about it a lot and definitely honor it more now than I did in the past. Beating yourself up about not creating isn’t going to inspire any creativity anyway…


    1. Your reply has got me thinking about “creative block” Juliana, and I wonder if by there being so many articles and books and talk about overcoming creating block, that everyone who creates almost expects to be blocked. And if we don’t get blocked, we’re somehow not a “proper” artist. So we almost enhance or exaggerate our blocks, when really they’re just natural quiet times in our creative cycles… Hmmm, think I will ponder some more and write a post on it!

      Thanks for your thoughts and comments.


  6. Great article on the creative cycle, Dan. I think it’s so important that each artist comes to know their own rhythms.

    As you know I’ve been thinking not a little about creative blocks just lately, Dan 😉 and while at times it could be true that a block is nothing more than a fallow period in our creative cycle, there are lots of other causes of block as well and, I believe that unlike the ‘seasonal’ variety, they don’t just go away of their own accord but require a rather more pro-active approach.


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