‘Find Your Fall Focus’ by Joni Sensel ’15

Capitalize on seasonal energy to be more productive

For many in the Northern hemisphere—adults as well as schoolkids—autumn invokes a “back to work” mood. The sights and smells of the season turn us away from summer’s lazy play toward practical tasks that need to be done before the arrival of winter darkness and hectic year-end holidays. This mental shift is grounded in Earth’s cycles, as well as genetic memory from countless ancestors forced to work hard to gather and store food before changes in weather made hunger a threat.

In the United States today, Labor Day marks this turning point, but the more traditional and astronomical pivot is Autumn Equinox. It falls this year on September 22. As we approach the official beginning of fall, it can be productive to plan how we’ll spend autumn days to take advantage of the season’s energies and impacts on our psyches. This idea, known as terrapsychology, acknowledges how we’re affected by natural cycles, even when we don’t realize it. [i]

Make the most of your creative time and efforts by becoming more aware of and working with nature’s influence. Autumn energy promotes three areas of focus: maturity moving toward harvest, release of what’s been exhausted, and celebration of both in community. That means:

  • Recommitting to hard work that will result in a harvest.
  • Releasing what you no longer need, like a tree dropping leaves.
  • Connecting with community to celebrate both kinds of work. In most cultures, fall connection is already marked by a string of traditional feasts and year-end holidays.

(Introspection is another key aspect of autumn, particularly as the daylight hours grow shorter, but that’s a big topic for later in the season.)

For now, you can use the power of these deeply ingrained associations by focusing your creative efforts on one or all three, with ideal projects or goals for fall such as these examples.

Work toward a harvest

  • A basic BIC (butt-in-chair) commitment
  • Completing a work or project in progress (whether that means finishing a draft or tackling a revision)
  • Reorganizing a workspace as you’d clear a field of weeds for future planting
  • Planning a new workshop or presentation for later delivery

Release what’s no longer needed

In autumn, many plants drop leaves, fruit, or seeds that will eventually help prompt new life in spring. Capture the value of this kind of “fall” by:

  • Identify something you need to let go of—a project, a resentment, a doubt. If it’s no longer serving you, it’s better dropped like leaf with no chlorophyll.
  • Share the fruits of your labor by submitting your project to others for critique, a contest, or publication/purchase.
  • Deliver a gift that can serve someone else—a skill, idea, or tool you can share.
  • Capture an idea that’s been a distraction (give it space in a journal, for instance) and officially set it aside for later.

Celebrate in community

Creative people are notorious for neglecting to celebrate their “harvest” achievements, but the evidence is strong that acknowledging success begets more. [ii] It’s also easier to celebrate friends’ success than our own, so do it together to capitalize on fall’s celebratory energy and spread the benefits:

  • Enjoy a special “harvest” meal and toast your success (including with others by Zoom)
  • Send creative friends a small gift that rewards their hard work—and be sure to give one to yourself, too.
  • Consider a donation of your creative time to help others: teach a class, share your inspirational journey, leave small samples of your work or a favorite book in public to be enjoyed by a stranger
  • Tout your achievement on social media the way your ancestors might’ve displayed their great harvest in a fall fair or grange

Consider how you might release, harvest, or connect through the next few months. Fall can be busy, especially for parents, but you don’t need lots of goals. Perhaps you harvest in late September, release something (Halloween fears?) in October, and connect in November by giving thanks for your creative friends.

Over time, this seasonal approach can help you break creative dreams into more achievable pieces. [iii] That way, when New Year’s rolls around again, you can wave off the habit of a grand annual goal, which most people eventually forget or abandon. Instead, consider only the season before you.

As you practice this idea, it’ll become more intuitive. Choose a chunk for autumn now, let seasonal sounds and scents remind you to focus on it, and see if the natural cycle of seasons can’t help you reach more of your dreams.

[i] Chalquist, Craig. terrapsychology.com
[ii] Carmody, Bill. “3 Reasons Celebrating Your Many Accomplishments Is Critical to Your Success.” Inc. Aug. 12, 2015.
[iii] Howes, Lewis. “Why Thinking Small Is the Secret To Big Success.” Forbes. July 6, 2012.