Fallow Fields

fallowFarmers will sometimes leave a field “fallow” – they won’t plant anything in it but rather let native plants grow in it – as a way of rejuvenating the land. Then when they do plant the field it is often very productive.

We were talking with one of our clients this morning about the topic of seasonal variability in mood and were reminded by that conversation of the idea of a “fallow field.” How it is often the case that creative people will have a period of less productivity that seems to set the stage for a period of great creativity.

Sometimes a “slow” period may be a time when the brain can work its way through ideas and then put them together in a new and interesting way. Hereward Carrington wrote about this in his book, “The Psychology of Genius” in 1947. Dean Simonton, in his book, “Scientific Genius: A Psychology of Science” suggested that the more innovative the idea, the longer the period of incubation.

Certainly we know that when we are “on the go” all of the time, working in a frenzied fashion, checking things off our to do lists efficiently, we are often not very creative.

As with many of the ideas on this site, the notion of a fallow period is not always relevant, or useful. If a fallow period means deep and dark depression its value may not be as great… or, at least, the risks from it may be too significant to ignore.

But lets say you are noticing the shorter days, and the darker weather, and feeling a bit slower getting things done, that may not be a bad thing. See if there is some benefit to it for you.

The great thing about modern society is that it gives us the ability to change things (by getting light exposure with a therapy light), but that doesn’t mean we have to do so reflexively.

This short book (Gift from the Sea) by Ann Morrow Lindbergh celebrates the value of quiet periods. It is beautiful and thought provoking.