I stumbled upon a metaphor the other day, that really helped me during this weird, post-book-launch phase I’m in.
Writing and publishing — and launching — a book is a major project. Actually, it’s three major projects. Four, really, if you add in the designing of the book, which is a major project in its own right.
And I managed to do all four of these things in the span of less than three months.
So, really, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I was pretty wiped out by the end of the launch. It’s only been a few weeks since then, and I feel like I haven’t quite gotten my full energy back.
And guess what? Because I’m such a driven person, because one of my top Strengthsfinder 2.0 strengths is Achiever, I want to constantly be producing, and when I’m not, I feel really frustrated.
So for the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling, well, frustrated, and like there’s something wrong with me. I was actually feeling guilty.
Until a very wise person I’ve been working with pointed out that, um, I just published a book in three months. And maybe I get to take a break.
You know, farmers have to let fields lie fallow every few years, that kind of thing?
And that’s when this metaphor of a peach tree sprang to mind.
It occurred to me (and I wrote this in a little spontaneous note to my Insiders a couple of weeks ago) that I’m like a peach tree. Really, any fruit tree, so imagine your favorite fruit tree. Stone fruits work especially well for this metaphor,
I happen to like peaches, so I’m going to go with a peach tree, but if you prefer cherries or plums or apricots, knock yourself out.
So here’s the thing — our creative process is just like a fruit tree’s creative process.
You get an inkling of a creative idea — that’s like little buds starting to form on your branches in the Spring.
Then those little buds blossom in an explosion of ideas, and then those ideas start to grow into little, baby peaches. All this creative energy sucks up from your roots and goes into producing, producing, producing, turning those ideas into what will, over time, become juicy, ripe peaches.
Spring rolls into Summer, and now you bear fruit. Tons of fruit.
You fruit and fruit and fruit and FRUIT!
So. Much. FRUIT!
You have to can it, freeze it, bake it into pies and breads and cakes and jams and everything you can think of, because everyone around you is OVERFLOWING with the wonderful fruit you have produced!
And then what happens?
Then the last of your fruit falls off, and your leaves fall off (hence the name of that season, Fall), and you’re basically a lot of sticks.
For several months, throughout the Winter, you’re sticks.
You may be a bunch of cherry sticks, or plum sticks, or like me, peach sticks.
But you’re basically just sticks.
And you know what?
Fruit trees do not feel guilty for being sticks during the winter.
This is what I am working on right now: not feeling guilty that I am not currently in Massive Creative Output phase.
I just went through an enormous Massive Creative Output phase.
It was called, Writing, Designing, Publishing, and Launching a Book.
Now I am in the Post-Massive Creative Output phase.
That looks a lot like being a peach tree in winter.
It is not very pretty.
But it is equally as important as the bearing-peaches part of the peach tree‘s creative life cycle.
And in fact, a lot is going on underneath the bark. You just can’t see it or smell it or taste it. It isn’t a very satisfying part of the cycle, but it is an essential part of the cycle.
The Peach Tree and the Rut
This metaphor of the peach tree came to mind again this week in a conversation inside my Creative Sandbox Community, where someone brought up the frustration of the particular brand of stuckness where you’re able to produce, but you’re not producing anything you truly love.
Nothing’s lighting your fire. You wish it were, but it’s not, and it’s really frustrating you.
So you keep plugging away, but it’s not energizing you. You might even be wondering if you will ever find inspiration and joy and passion and enthusiasm in your creative work again.
That’s what I call the “rut” phase of the creative process. Part of you might know that this, too, is part of the process, but dang, that doesn’t mean it’s fun!
And if you don’t already know that this is an expected and normal part of the creative process, you might be wondering if there’s something wrong with you. (Let me assure you, there is not!)
So, kind of in line with the peach tree metaphor, I thought I’d share a brief outline of my personal experience of the creative process, from start to finish. This is pretty much how it goes for me, almost without exception. Perhaps you will be able to relate.
For me it goes something like this:
2. Flail some more! (Total chaos!)
3. Yet more flailing! (Will I ever create something of any value whatsoever again???)
4. Starting to catch…
5. Hmm… Interesting…
6. Ooh.. I like this!
7. I think I may have found a groove! (Note: this part may take a lot longer to get to than shown here.)
11. Still groove, but not quite as exciting…
12. Getting bored…
13. REALLY bored, but not ready to admit it yet, because I had SUCH a lovely groove going!
16. RUT.. Okay, I really MUST get on with something else…
Lather, rinse, repeat.
With liberal sprinklings of gremlins throughout, of course.
If this reminds you at all of the cycle of growth of the peach tree, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whether you think of it as a peach tree, or as a cycle of “flail, groove, rut,” it comes out to the same thing.
And all this is to say, if you are going through a stick phase, or a flail phase, or a rut phase, know that you are not alone. Know that there is nothing wrong with you. Know that it is part of the process.
It is not a fun part of the process — I’m sorry to say that it is something that just has to be gone through. But hopefully knowing that it is a natural part of the process will help you get through it with more grace and self-compassion.
Treat yourself kindly. Do something loving for yourself. Fill your well.
And enjoy the ride, because you never know when the next phase is going to start. The only thing you can count on is that it will.
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