Robin Sloan last month wrote about how newsletters should have seasons like tv shows. Peter Rukavina refers to that in the context of maybe closing up his online shop for letterpress artefacts for a while, something other than a newsletter entirely.

It made me muse about the general application of ‘seasons’ to any type of creative output. Newsletters, knowledge work in general, creation of artefacts, expression. It reminds me of the phases used to describe artist’s lives and work. “She was nearing the end of her blue phase when she met fellow painter X and started experimenting with a new work form.” Van Gogh’s work is described in the ‘Dutch phase’, ‘Impressionist phase’, ‘Arles phase’ and ‘Late phase’, spanning just a decade.

The word season has a rounded pleasant feel to it. Much better than the word phase, which in the context of projects evokes the notions of pre-planned milestones and stress before deadlines. Seasons has a much better fit with things like the natural flow of one’s interests, of (digital) gardening, where there’s a rhythmic change to your activities.

There are internal reasons and external reasons for thinking in terms of seasons for creative production.

Internal ones are about

  • building in rest, and treating rest as a fundamental part of your production process (which fits well with my notion of knowledge work as artisanal work).
  • an opportunity to reflect (mentioned by Sloan), to step back from the work in progress and take a look at the bigger whole in which it fits
  • avoiding the relentlessness that is buried within ‘weekly’, ‘daily’ and other preconceived rhythms, and which always after a while if conceived as ‘endless’ or having an end which is still far away becomes a burden. There is of course the juxtaposed notion of ‘not breaking the chain’. The latter is aimed more at getting the mental satisfaction of keeping up a streak, when the underlying tasks are more of a chore and not likely to provide that satisfaction. With creative production the satisfaction is likely more in the output itself, and then forcing the streak to continue may be counter productive, causing a rut that decreases the fun and satisfaction of production.

External ones

  • a sense of progress (mentioned by Sloan), of exploration. An exploration is always a temporary thing, before it morphs into something else again.
  • an opportunity to alter course (mentioned by Sloan), e.g. because your list of current interests, or current questions you hold has changed
  • a way to change the form of expression, which can bring new inspiration also if themes remain the same. Switching from writing haiku’s to photography, from consultancy to on-line training modules.
  • to embrace a natural end point or evolution, providing the ability to let go gracefully not as ‘I’ve quit doing/exploring that’, but ‘I moved to doing/exploring this’. ‘Seasons’ lend themselves well to weaving them into your or other’s narrative.

Those last three fit well with combinational creativity, in all its three varieties of problem driven, similarity driven and inspiration driven approaches.

Seasons by Alphonse Mucha, public domain image, shared by Robson Epsig as CC-BY

4 reactions on “Creative Output Should Have Seasons

  1. Just to say that I enjoyed reading this post. It resonates very well with where I find myself in the last years. Working with nature lends itself to the understanding the role of seasons, natural cycles and the winter period to pause, let go what is ready to go and to be open for what comes by.

    And – it was special to get a card from you over the holidays. Thank you and greetings to E&Y.

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