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Don’t Wait for Lightning

Shanda McManus talks about how her creative inspiration grows imperceptibly. She shares how she cultivates her creativity through self-care.

By Shanda McManus

July 21, 2022

Last week, I was standing at my kitchen sink looking out into my backyard when a loud BOOM sounded. I crouched to the floor, thinking for a moment that it was a bomb. But it turned out to be a lightning strike to the towering pine tree in my yard. I could see a gash in the bark revealing the light-colored wood underneath, and bits of the tree were scattered across the pool cover.

BOOM! That’s how I want my creativity to manifest—out of nowhere and fast, with no warning. And maybe once in a thousand times, that does happen. But more often, revelations about my work bud slowly like the other trees in my yard. My dogwoods and crepe myrtles go from brown branches to green leaves to finally pink flowers year after year.

Lightning strikes of genius are magnificent but rare and unpredictable. Creative inspiration often grows imperceptibly. I help my trees along by ensuring they have enough water and sunlight to blossom. In the same way, I try to cultivate my imagination by making sure I get enough sleep, exercise, and manage stress. Sometimes when I feel stuck in my work, I backtrack to these fundamentals of self-care to restore momentum.

I have to remind myself in times of artistic barrenness that sometimes I have to wait for spring, like my trees in winter. I know that ideas and directions will come. I just have to wait.

Shanda McManus has been featured in Intima Journal of Narrative Medicine, Midnight & Indigo, and other publications.