Creative Challenge: The Lull

by Janet Grace Riehl

@painting by Janet Riehl "Heroine's Journey"

It takes a lot of time to be a genius; you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.— Gertrude Stein

Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits. — Satchel Paige

We are never not creative. So, if right now you aren’t painting or writing or composing music or in a smash Broadway play or dancing in a premiere performance—never fear.  Your creativity is still near. And, still dear.

Say you’ve just completed a large project. Tired through and through you shamble off to a party where people ask you, “What’s next?”  The most sensible “What’s next?” is kicking back. Build a birdhouse. Put cayenne pepper in your cocoa. Watch a movie without the sound on. Lay in wait to plant a kiss. Find an old sofa to sink into. Wade in a mud puddle. Stick out your tongue. Live a little.

The creative process starts with work (preparation) and ends with work (implementation). In between are incubation (doing nothing), and illumination (that idea in the shower). You gotta have that mystical time inside the practical sandwich to make it work. But, that mystical time is also practical. You gotta have that lull.

That’s just the way of it. A broody hen sits on her eggs waiting for them to hatch. Soil rests in a rotation system. You put up your feet while you watch TV. You think in-between chess moves. Music depends on rests and spaces between notes. Comic timing relies on pauses. Slack out your reins and let your mind run free–roll in the pasture to scratch that itch. Don’t worry. Your horse will come home, ready to nuzzle your hand and eat a carrot. You won’t even need a stick.


Creative Catalyst Keynote

1.1   What Is Creativity Anyway

Creative Cycles

2.1 Creative Cycles

2.2 Balancing Act

2.3 The Rhythm Method

Riehlife Blog Duet with Solitary Words by Selena Wolff

Hey! chosen SCN Star Blogger for March. Learn more about our audio book “Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music.” Become a Riehlife villager.

Are you a creative catalyst? Pose questions about practical creativity; give ideas for future cycle themes; and join in the dialog in our comments section.

8 responses to “Creative Challenge: The Lull

  1. Love this,Janet~ a great reminder of the importance of sitting still,”incubating”.Well done!Thanks for sharing.

  2. Since you are writing a memoir about the power of hope through faith, I’m sure you are more than familiar with this state. Often, when we relax and listen, spirit moves in.

    Janet Riehl

  3. A great reminder to stop and refuel the soul. Great post…


  4. Thanks, Selena.

    Folks! Check out our blog duet on nourishing your creativity and finding your creative path.

    Selena’s site is
    My site is

    You’ll see interlocking interviews on each site.

    Janet Riehl

  5. Oh, Janet,
    I love the post but the Satchel Paige quote takes front and center for me. I may have to engrave it on my computer screen!

  6. Yes, Arletta. Isn’t that a keeper! I love, too, how creative process reaches across all walks of life. Satchel’s the best.

    Janet Riehl

  7. Ah I love this!
    Creative inspiration can strike at the most unlikely and unexpected moments. I try to carry a notebook and a camera with me at all times. I also find that taking a break from one creative source and focusing on another for a while can allow me to find completely different perspective on whatever I’m stuck on. Spring is here (well some days it is) I find the nostalgia of transitional seasons to be a catalyst for creation
    Thanks again for beautifully stated words of inspiration.

  8. Jenny,

    Yes, rotating media for artists who work in several is a good way to keep one’s sanity and feed the other art forms. I think you’d like to read out series on multi-creatives. Take a peek in the Creative Catalyst archives.

    “Nostalgia of transitional seasons” a well-turned phrase.

    Janet Riehl

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