Old Faithful–What Can You Teach Me?

Have you seen the geyser affectionately referred to as Old Faithful? 

Discovered on an expedition to Yellowstone in 1870, Old Faithful has continued to spew hot, steamy water every 35 to 120 minutes for what has been estimated to be thousands of years.
Old Faithful has been doing essentially the same thing over and over throughout its life as a geyser. Most of us visualize Old Faithful in our minds as spewing high into the air.

However, Old Faithful doesn’t spew non-stop

She usually only spews for 1 ½ to 5 minutes at a time. Then she is inactive, “resting” for anywhere from 35 to 120 minutes.

After an inactive period, Old Faithful starts a “warm up” period that can last as long as 20 minutes. Small splashes of water begin to appear, jetting every few minutes, then stopping, then starting, then stopping. Finally, Old Faithful erupts in all her glory, spewing as high as 180 feet. Then, with little drama, the eruption is over, diminishing quickly to small spurts, then nothing.

How does it feel when your creativity stops flowing?

Just like Old Faithful, creativity flows, then stops. It feels great and empowering when creativity is flooding out from our souls, and new ideas come to our minds virtually so fast that we cannot keep track of them all. But then the ideas stop, and creativity seems virtually dead.

Maybe I am a fraud

Doubt and worry set in, and the questions start. What if I have run out of ideas? What if my creativity is dead? And sometimes even a false belief enters our minds…maybe I was never really creative-just really, really lucky.

This is when the cycle of Old Faithful can remind us that creative energy sometimes needs a rest and time to rebuild. It is “normal” for creativity to ebb and flow, come and go, wax and wane. Just like the phases of the moon. Maybe we even suffer a full eclipse.

But like Old Faithful, our minds begin to warm up again

We start to feel little hints that there is really something left of our creativity. We get a few ideas here and there. Then finally, like a big full moon on a crisp clear night, our creativity shines bright again. Then, we paint with no fear, write fluently and with clarity, sing with full voice, and dance with abandon.

So how do I cope with creative burnout, and how can I get past it?

First of all, have faith and confidence. Confidence that you are just taking a rest and renewing your creative spirit. Weave the fear, worry, and depression into a cloak, and take warmth and comfort in it by simply knowing that you are going through a rebuilding stage, and that the creativity will reappear.

Read good books, sign up for a course, and focus on building skills. Allow yourself to do “master copies” based on the writers, artists, and creators that you love. Keep an art journal with sketches of everyday events and the objects that surround you. Take a trip or spend time with nature, simply taking the time to enjoy the sunset from your patio. Do the things you love.

Resist putting pressure on yourself to get back into the creative zone today. Pressure tends to scare creativity into the shadows, while peace of mind allows creativity to reappear in its own time, and usually when it is least expected.

So, hold onto faith…

Like Old Faithful, creativity has a cycle. It erupts and flows freely, then fades and goes dry. After a rest, steam starts to build again. Creativity begins to make short, but regular appearances, and finally is back in full force.

And always remember–rather than fight the cycle, embrace it.

Welcome that time of renewal, and let your creative soul take that well-deserved rest. 


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