Creative Crop Rotation

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This concept occurred to me because I recently burned out (well, . . . almost); I had reached the point where I faced my work and said, . . . “I’m all dried up.” It wasn’t that I didn’t have ideas; I just didn’t have the will to work. Pervasive boredom. Enthusiasm was lost. Wilted and parched.

I’ve been putting in a lot of hours lately working on music and concert production. I came home late one evening, sat down, and didn’t want to get up. The next day I didn’t want to go to class. Then the tell-tale sign that I am not emotionally and artistically healthy: alternating between obsessively checking my e-mail and obsessively checking CNN.Com for any little update.

Because I’ve spent the last 10 years becoming familiar with myself, I immediately recognized that there was a problem. I made the decision to leave. I saw where I was, what I was doing, didn’t like it, and decided to go do something else. I leapt into the car and drove into the mountains. It was apparent that I had embarked down unpaved roads that hadn’t been driven on for quite some time. Overgrown trees, thickets, grass and moss. I got out and was somewhere different than I was before. Doing something different. Seeing something different. It felt good.

I brought my digital camera, shot hundreds of photos, and made some short films. When I got home I eagerly loaded them onto my computer and began to toy with them. Stayed up late working. It was wonderfully relaxing and quite restful, despite the fact that I didn’t get to bed until nearly 2am.

This all boils down to what I am calling “creative crop rotation.” The principle is simple: when your soil is depleted, plant something else. Don’t overwork it with the same old crop (or task, or genre, or theme, or motif, or gimmick, etc. . .) or you’ll end up with a dry basin that gets blown away when the harsh winds come hurtling through your valley.

There is strength in diversity, and if you have a difficult time being inspired by a wide variety of disciplines then you have likely trained yourself to see only differences and to overlook the similarities.

Do something else. Go somewhere different. Plant a different crop — even if it is just for a day. You’ll end up thriving. And instead of producing a bowl of parched and depleted dust, you’ll ripen verdant green, and — when the time comes — you’ll actually have something to harvest.

Creative Crop Rotation. Give something a catchy name, and you are much more likely to put the principle into practice that much more often.

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