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The Four Phases of Creation – Part Three: The Fertile Void

(This is part three of a four-part series on the phases of creation. (Here are parts one and two if you missed them.) Everything you ever birth, be it a baby, a book, a business, or a brunch, goes through these four phases. They sync up with the seasons, the lunar cycle, the menstrual cycle, and the planting cycle. Once you know what they are and use them consciously you can add some serious rocket fuel to your creations and your creative process. Make sure you’re on my list to receive part four!)

Within a few months of my first book, Money: A Love Story, coming out, I felt totally lost.

I remember sitting at a wedding with my friend Marie Forleo one month after the publishing date and telling her that all I felt like doing was obsessing over wedding decor on Pinterest (I was getting married that summer).

I had zero chomp for growing our business. My desire and creativity around going deeper on the money conversation with my community had dried up.

Even though Hay House had asked for another book because the first one was selling so well, I just didn’t have it in me, so I had to say, “Not yet.”

Honestly, I felt like there was something wrong with me because I didn’t have the next big idea. I felt like everyone else knew exactly what they were doing, and I was the only one adrift.

Over the next year I channeled my energy into planning a gorgeous wedding and getting in the best shape of my life. Business stayed steady, but I didn’t feel inspired by it.

Over a year later, I still felt stuck. I sent an email to a few of my nearest and dearest that said:

I’m feeling kind of dried up creatively. I feel like what I’m putting out in the world is okay but not great. It’s not the epic truth of my soul, that’s for sure. It doesn’t feel new. It doesn’t feel interesting. It doesn’t feel good enough. It kind of feels like I’m a charlatan and this whole personal growth leader thing is all total bullshit and probably I should switch careers.

Mike booked me a writing retreat to help me get out of my funk, but instead of writing I sat in my hotel room and cried for 3 days.

Soon after, I got pregnant and proceeded to nap through my entire pregnancy. Then I went through a birth experience and first year of motherhood that brought me to my knees in terms of a level of difficulty and intensity I never could have imagined.

AND AFTER WINTER COMES THE SPRING

About a month after my daughter’s first birthday, I felt a pang of inspiration around a business idea unlike anything I’d felt in over three years. From that spark, which started out as a blog post about making Mother Nature your financial planner, Origin™ was birthed. (Get on the waitlist to be the first to know when enrollment for this membership community about reimagining motherhood and entrepreneurship opens again!)

I didn’t know until it was over that the three-plus years I felt adrift creatively was a fallow period that I now understand was a Fertile Void.

THE GIFTS OF THE FERTILE VOID

The Fertile Void is the creative phase where we:

It’s the same energy as the season of winter, the new moon, and the phase of the menstrual cycle where we bleed.

Because I was raised in a culture that celebrates productivity above all, I thought I was doing something wrong during this time. I thought I sucked. I thought that I should possibly quit my business and become a bank teller.

But now I know that there’s no way the work I feel so deeply passionate about now, the material that feels like it’s bubbling up from my soul, could have come forth if it hadn’t been for that three-year period of feeling adrift.

Deep, true creativity doesn’t emerge despite the deep pause; it emerges because of it. 

When we’re in the Fertile Void it often feels deeply uncomfortable, both because taking a break for contemplation, integration, and rest isn’t valued by our culture, but also because it takes pressure to create a diamond.

The key to getting the most out of this inevitable and necessary phase in the process of creation is to embrace it as such.

When we push up against the season we’re in, we miss out on the gifts available for us. 

But when we fully embrace it, we reap the rewards.

So, next time you feel lost, confused, exhausted, or like you have no clue what you’re doing, celebrate. You’ve reached a new, critical season in your creative cycle. When you embrace the Fertile Void, your creations have greater depth and impact.

And remember, just as springtime always follows winter, there’s an inevitable spark of creativity that follows the Fertile Void. (I call it Emergence and I’ll share how to make the most of it next week, so make sure you’re on the list.)

You don’t need to expend unnecessary energy in the Fertile Void wondering if you’ll ever emerge from the underworld again. You will. It just takes as long as it takes.

I wish I hadn’t felt lost for three years. But I did. That’s what I needed.

I know I’ll descend again during my next trip through the phases of creation. It might be three years, it might be more. It might be less. I’ll never know how long it will take, and neither will you.

What we can know, however, is that we’re at the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. The more we embrace it instead of push against it, the deeper we’ll go and the higher we’ll fly.

OVER TO YOU:

Have you ever experienced a Fertile Void? What did it feel like to you? What did you learn? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

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  • Julie says:

    Kate, I literally went through the exact same scenario. After I self published my kids book, Project Monster’s Alphabet adventure, I was so stuck that it made me feel like a total failure. I thought it would propel me right into another book, but it actually sucked all of my creativity away. I had to completely surrender and do life, uninspired, but from a place of knowing that it would come back someday. It recently returned, thank god, and I am starting a totally new adventure with my husband, as we are creating a new apparel business with our artistic creations! It feels so good to come back from that place, but it was indeed a time that had to pass and lots of learning happened in that place of limbo! It’s so nice to hear I’m not the only one… it’s tough getting asked when the next book is coming, and you literally can’t even fathom going through that process again at the time…. the only answer is “eventually I’ll get there….”

  • Suzanne Daniel says:

    Kate,
    Thank you for your post. I am just emerging from a 3 year period of feeling completely lost, confused, frightened about ever feeling passionate about anything and depressed. Lost steam, and trust in others and myself. In reading your post I resonate deeply with your experience. I now am grateful for your authentic sharing and grateful that I am emerging stronger than ever and renewed. I just purchased your Money book and look forward to engaging in love with my life and my money. I have been avoidant and fearful about money and now I know it’s time to embrace my life wholeheartedly money, community, relationships and serving. Thank you once again Kate.

    Sincerely,
    Suzanne Daniel

  • Helen says:

    I like this, a lot! So much expectation is to ‘do’ something to ‘be’ something/someone. A great reminder that it is completely ok just to ‘be’, whatever that is, in rest, in motion, or in between. All part of the journey. So important to ‘hold the space’ for yourself – I feel like I’m coming out of a void myself, at a tipping point for regrouping and making stuff happen. Funny how having children can throw this into motion – returning to work after maternity leave some years ago, to an uncertain work future, I suffered anxiety and stress and was off work for a few weeks. This culminated in voluntary redundancy which was the best change ever for me once I embraced it for the opportunity it was, including a period of exploring and discovery. Ready to emerge now, it’s time…..!

  • Sara says:

    Haha, the “underworld”. That’s exactly what it feels like! I’ve been signed off work with a virus / adrenal fatigue since March, which sometimes feels like an unending nightmare, but… I have learnt so much about myself throughout this process. I’m being held in a space where a huge transition is taking place. It’s exciting and terrifying all at once. I’m shedding away old layers that no longer serve me, letting go of the dream job I thought I wanted, examining, evaluating, questioning, creating, choosing to align with life and trusting that everything will work out beautifully. I’ve created a visionboard for the new dream job – a role that will allow freedom, creativity, feminine energy and authenticity. It’s a tiny seed, but is helping me to stay focused on the goal while embracing the educational and life changing journey!

  • Lou says:

    Thank you so much for this-I needed to hear it and know that what I’m experiencing right now is OKAY and I’m not failing!!

  • Wendy says:

    Oh … this one struck a chord with me…. In my core, I know that something is getting ready to be birthed but man, oh man, it has taken a very long time. Four years…. I moved four years ago and have blamed it on that or the area I’m living in, fear, etc. I start to go into negative self talk…. and a little bit of depression because without a goal or purpose, I feel lost. I NEED to be creative. There is a lot going on in my life right now that is putting me through the biggest challenges in my life. I know that on the other side, will show me what my next steps are. These lessons are preparing me for something HUGE. Words to carry me through are Surrender… and Warrior xoxo
    Thank you for this today. Always good to know that we are not alone!
    Blessings, Wendy Warrior

    • Kate Northrup says:

      I’m so sorry you’ve been having such a rough time Wendy. Ugh the void can be so tough! Trust that spring is coming. I promise it’s coming. And surrender is indeed the word!

  • Absolutely how I feel now. So helpful to read that thank you. I will rest and appreciate the fallow period!

  • Kate,
    Thank you for your candor and honesty. When I see everyone’s beautiful social media presence, I imagine they are in a perpetual state of inspiration and creation. Even you. I appreciate seeing the other side of things, revealing humanity and humility. I’m sorry you struggled for those three years, but it also seems many beautiful things were birthed during that time, including your daughter and this new program, which is relevant and creative! I went to grad school for creative writing and published a book of poems. But the muse seems to have turned her back, and I’ve not written poetry in over a year. My partner asked me about it yesterday and I immediately started crying. The imposter syndrome as strong. Thank you for this : “deep, true creativity doesn’t emerge despite the deep pause; it emerges because of it.”

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Leslie – I’m so glad this resonated with you and that it helped you feel comfort. And yes – so many things are still birthed in the Fertile Void even though there’s also a lot of fallow time.

  • Is it possible to be in about a 15-year Fertile Void during which I divorced, got remarried, published a book, birthed a baby at age 48, divorced again, moved 800+ miles away, and retreated from just about everything I love and value? 15 years? The creativity that’s inevitable coming must be freakin’ amazing!!

    • Kate Northrup says:

      I think it is possible, yes! That’s a lot that you’ve had going on there in the fertile void!

  • Cheryl says:

    I knew about being in a Winter of life but I’m so grateful to read about your experience. I was beginning to think my ‘Winter’ would never end. After reading about your birthing, void and fallow experience something in my soul resonates with everything you talked about. I feel so much more hopeful about where I am right now and my future. Thank you so much.

    • Kate Northrup says:

      I’m so glad this resonates with you and that you’re feeling more hopeful. These periods are totally necessary and fruitful!

  • Elise says:

    Thank God I opened your email this morning. That is exactly what I am feeling like now. I also have a young baby who is coming up on a year old and oscillate between having the juiciest ideas of my life and then feeling like I have no idea what I am doing and then having no idea how to do anything when I am on baby watch constantly… my daily practice is just breathing and remembering that it will all work itself out and that the spring will come around again and that the best thing to do right now is probably just enjoy these precious moments with my little one… thanks so much for sharing this. 💜💜💜

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Yes – that postpartum period (even beyond year one) is totally a Fertile Void. Where you are is totally perfect!

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