Autumn Leaves, Seasonal Depression, and the Ebbs and Flows of Creativity | Blog 10/14/22

Featured image: Some of my favorite witchy stuff, plus the clicky keyboard I’ve been really enjoying for writing my novel.

“Anyone who thinks fallen leaves are dead has never watched them dancing on a windy day.”

– Shira Tamir

Content warning: This blog entry contains some discussion of mental health issues. Please read at your discretion and only when it feels safe to do so.

Autumn is my favorite time of the year in terms of weather and energy. October is when I feel magic more palpably than in any other month of the year. It’s not just the witchy decorations and movies playing constantly, nor the approach of Halloween/Samhain/the Equinox. For me, October is magic through and through, not just on the 31st.

However, for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere and also living with seasonal affective disorder or other seasonal sensitivity, the magic and beauty of this season can also be tinged with either the onset of symptoms or the apprehension thereof. My seasonal depression usually fades in around or after Christmas, or in mid-December at the earliest, but this year it hit me like a brick wall around October 5th. 

The two comics I completed this summer.

I’ve had an incredibly productive summer. I finished two comics – a graphic novella, Corvidae, and a ten-page mini comic, The Feline Guide To Grief. Corvidae just went off to the printer for a test print, and I’ll share about that when it comes in. I illustrated more than half of the cards for my upcoming Path of the Magdalene oracle deck. I knocked out the first 10,000 words of a novel (yes, really). And I was poised to start really focusing on the game project my partner and I have been toying with all year and really want to bring into existence.

And then, suddenly, I was in the depths of depression and creativity felt more like a remembered dream than something I could feel every day. 

At this point, having started Q4 strong and then almost immediately hit this wall of depression and non-productivity, I am torn. On the one hand, I believe strongly in being patient with oneself creatively, not pushing to the point of burnout, and surfing the ebbs and flows of creative energy in our lives rather than holding ourselves to an inhuman standard of “same level of work all the time.” On the other hand, however, I have worked hard to establish good habits around my creativity, and I do believe in “showing up at the page” no matter what. Even if nothing happens there, I try to get into my studio space every day, to maintain the habit and mindset of “I am an artist. I make stuff. This is who I am.”

It’s hard to know how to proceed when all of you – your Muse, your schedule, your space, and your conscious self – stands ready to create, and then depression or anxiety or other illness hits hard. Different solutions are going to be right for different people at different times. I do believe that sometimes “just show up for your art anyway” is the answer. But I also believe that, other times, “take a break, drop the paintbrush, and get some damn rest” is the answer.

Ebb and flow in creativity is not something I like to embrace, but I think I need to right now.

For me, right now? I don’t know. I am following my Muse wherever she shows up, doing whatever project feels doable in a given moment. Right now, at least this week, the creativity is (or feels) infrequent and inconsistent. I don’t enjoy that; my creative personality is that of the “scheduled artist” – I’m someone who can put art on a schedule, and get it done, and enjoy it. I actually thrive creatively more when I have a relatively firm schedule. But I think this season of my life, or at least this month, is one where I need to embrace the ebb of my creativity until it returns to a flow state.

Maybe I’m being challenged this way for a reason. Maybe it serves some larger purpose for me as a creative being. Or maybe seasonal affective disorder just seriously sucks. Maybe some of both.

Even from the “back-end” side of my site, the range of posts this year is pretty minimal.

I had intended, at the beginning of Q4 (October/November/December), to post a blog here every sinlge Monday. Clearly, it is not Monday when this is going up. And maybe this, too, is happening for a reason – maybe I’m meant to learn to be a bit more free-flowing with my blogging, too. It’s hard to not feel discouraged when my schedule gets thrown off right away. But I will keep at it. Because that’s what we do as creatives. Whether you are a “schedule-friendly artist” who shows up at a set time, a free-wheeling artist who just works when the Muse calls, or something in between – as long as you are going with your style, doing what works for you and your creativity – you are “doing it right.” 

I guess I just need to trust that I am, too.

Wishing you all a wonderful week, or few days, or month – however long it takes until I have energy to blog again. And until next time: Be safe. Be well, whatever that looks like for you. And, if it’s healthy for you to do so…go make something today.

xo Taylor

Taylor Johnson is a multi-discipline artist and author from the Northern Virginia area in the US. She is the creator of two independently published divination decks – the Millennial Mystic Tarot and the Hekate Oracle – and a mini-comic, The Feline Guide to Grief. Currently she is working on the upcoming Path of the Magdalene Oracle (July 2023); the graphic novel Corvidae (2023, exact date TBD); and a contemporary novel (totally TBD).

All photos and content (c) Taylor Johnson.