In my vision for the near future there are huge sunflowers smiling in a long line against the back fence of my yard. It’s a dream that could happen. My youngest and I spent an hour or so planting seeds. I’ll know in a week or so if they have sprouted. Seeds need a while to germinate before they burst through the soil.

June’s topic of the month on the Inkwell is “Renewing Creativity.” As I thought about my own struggles with the creative process, I realized I’ve fought to renew creativity when renewal wasn’t needed. Creativity wasn’t dead, it was just resting. Some writing stalls just require patience and germination time.

Germination is the process in which a plant bursts from a seed and becomes a sprout. It first spends time underneath the ground collecting nutrients. If left dry, it will never sprout, but if it is safe in a dark, quiet environment and given plenty of water, a root miraculously breaks from the seed. Soon the skin splits and smaller roots and leaves emerge. With enough sunshine and water, a mature sunflower plant produces brilliant yellow blossoms complete with a rich brown center.

Writing, too, needs germination time. I once heard Anne Lamont, author of the famed writing book Bird by Bird, speak. Of all the wonderful, insightful comments she made, the one with the greatest take home value for this writer was: “If you’re going to be an artist, you have to stare out the window.”

How freeing! My artistic soul craves long, quiet retreats. Sometimes they include praise music and a journal. Other times, like yesterday, my retreat is an afternoon alone with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and the Pride and Prejudice mini-series. When I can I like to stroll a mountain trail and breathe in the sweet pine scent. Often my retreats include a novel or Bible study. Sometimes the best retreat is simply being still, musing about life, whispering with God, and watching fresh green-leaved branches dance in a cobalt sky.

For an artist, these staring out the window times–times when our emotions are stirred, beauty is inhaled, and our thoughts allowed to wander and ponder–are germination times. They are the safe place that causes something that barely exists, like an idea or a thought, to expand from its small existence to something much greater. We often don’t even know it is happening. But then we’re loading the dishwasher or brushing our teeth and we realize a new plot line has formed, a character has been birthed, or that we possess a new devotional insight that has to be expressed.

And this happens because our creative seeds were allowed to germinate, safe from our fretting, prodding, and pushing. We gave ourselves permission to stare out the window.

When huge yellow faces brightened my weather-beaten fence last year, I was amazed at how their fresh loveliness took something worn and sad and made it beautiful. With enough resting, enough prayer–enough staring out the window–I dare believe our writing will reach the barren, beaten down places of the soul and call forth its beauty once again.

A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website, Soul Scents, offers a free weekly devotional, and you can visit her blog at GraceReign. Paula serves as president of HIS Writers, the north Denver ACFW chapter. A devoted Pride and Prejudice fan, she loves good conversation, peppermint ice cream, and walking barefoot. Her greatest desire is to be close enough to Jesus to live His fragrance.

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