Has this ever happened to you? You start thinking of some major changes – maybe you even declare that you are about to make them – and then you go through a period of doing absolutely nothing. You’re not making the changes, and further, you’re not even doing half of what you would usually do. This happened to me recently, and it lasted for nearly two months. The extent of what I was willing to do beyond the basics was read Naomi Novik’s entire Temeraire series and The Dragonriders of Pern, both of which I recommend. Granted, I had started a new job and gotten sick, but still…two months is a long time to only want to read about dragons.
I was starting to get worried – was I resisting? Isolating myself to avoid something? Was my dragon obsession a sign that something was wrong? I didn’t know, but in the back of my mind it felt like something was brewing underneath the surface. I decided to just ride it out and see what happened.
Three weeks ago, this period abruptly came to an end. Since then, I redecorated half of my apartment, painted several pieces of furniture, quit smoking cold turkey, began obsessively researching vegan diets and started redesigning my website. Now I can’t seem to stop changing…and I still can sense more brewing.
“To do great work a man must be very idle as well as very industrious.”
– Samuel Butler
I think that too often we focus on being “very industrious” and forget that pauses for incubation are a critical part of any creative or change process. So how can you tell whether you should keep pushing forward or just lay on the couch with a great book for a while? Author Jill Badonski in her book The Nine Modern Day Muses and a Bodyguard talks about some signs that it’s time for what she calls a “lull”:
• “You’re having a creative dry spell.
• You are stuck in similar themes, repeating previous ideas, and having difficulty coming up with something new.
• You feel creatively blocked, burnt out or you’ve come face-to-to-face with a quagmire.
• You are losing energy toward, or have stopped enjoying, your creative passion.”
I think this applies equally to all processes in our lives. Sometimes we just lose our zest – we know a change needs to happen, and are simply unable to envision what it is.
So when you’re feeling like a complete slacker, take a moment to ask yourself these questions:
-is there a change I’ve been thinking about making but haven’t gotten started with?
-is there a sense of peace and/or inevitability about this pause? Is it lacking an ick factor?
If you answered “Yes” to these questions, then I’m betting you’re going through a period of incubation while your subconscious prepares for the change. Enjoy it!
What has your experience of incubation been like? Leave a comment and let me know!