What do you need to destroy in order to create?

It is April, so despite the fact that this “grass” is actually more of a mud pie, and that these trees are yet to regain their leafy bouquet, it’s officially spring time. Those of us who live in places that experience the glory of all four seasons can finally walk outside without being personally offended. Our shoulders no longer rise to our earlobes as we mutter “fuck this fucking weather” to no one except the icy sidewalk (and when will the landlord get down here and salt this?!). No, that time is past. Yes, the weather is a changin’.

Despite the bitter cold of the cruel mistress we call winter, I’ve actually always loved seasons. In fact, I think they’re often necessary reminders for us to grow and change as humans, too: Nature does it, so why shouldn’t we? Personally I find myself drawn to the milder transition periods. I adore the smell of spring rain and the sight of fall leaves, and there’s no better time for fashion than when the weather permits us to wear light layers. Spring opens a window into new life while fall artfully reminds us of the beauty in decomposition. These transitional periods also give a glimpse of what’s to come: their more polarizing siblings, summer and winter.

As someone who deeply values balance, I can struggle with extremes—even when it comes to the weather. But that’s the beauty of balance: We wouldn’t be able to savor spring and fall without also experiencing the bitter cold of winter or the blistering heat of summer. It’s about the cycle: Earth’s orbit, hibernation and awakening, life and death. While I won’t feign a deep understanding of the laws of physics, I do know that this seasonal change—and any change, for that matter—is a shift in energy.

So as a Creative Coach experiencing the ups and downs of Mother Nature, I often find myself asking: What needs to be destroyed in order for us to create? Before the nerds in the back have a tantrum, I understand that energy cannot be created or destroyed, per the law of conservation of energy and blahdy blah blah. That’s actually my point here: You can’t create from nothing. Something has to be tweaked, tugged, upset, displaced, manipulated, or changed. We need the heat, the fall, and the cold to create something new.

Like the weather, however, we often don’t control the change that throws us into our next inspired creation. Some change can hit us like a truck: the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a reversal in health, a loss of income, or any other traumatic experience. Any of these changes may force us to confront previously hidden parts of ourselves. Here, the savvy artist cradles the trauma like a faberge egg, carrying it with them into their next work. We all know how many of the world’s most accomplished creatives have also been the unfortunate bearers of unspeakable pain and rejection. (Think Vincent Van Gogh, Franz Kafka, or Sylvia Plath.)

While traumatic life events may add to the depth of our work, they aren’t something we actively seek out—and for good reason. They inflict pain, and they usually happen at us rather than because of us. Though they may be a powerful place to create from, they’re not something we’d wish on our worst enemy. But the good news is that these places of pain are not the only, or even the most common source of shifts in energy.

Consider the every-day, tiny destruction that leads to big creation. The crushing of beans that becomes our coffee. The slicing of fabric that makes a garment of clothing. The crumpling of draft after draft before we pen a finished product.

So if you’re hoping to add some creative energy to your day, consider a few ways to engage your destructive side (cue maniacal laugh). And know that list isn’t about comfort; we never create from a place of comfort.

Old work. Not happy with it? Destroy it. Rework it with a new layer, chop it into tiny pieces for a collage, or say goodbye by lighting it on fire. Don’t let the soul of past work haunt your present. Sometimes old work helps us get something out of our system before moving on to the next great thing.

Distractions. Cell phones, the internet, babies, dogs. GET THEM AWAY! They will pull your energy in fifty different directions, and unless you’re Doctor Manhattan, they will affect your work.

Items on the to-do list. It might be a flat tire, credit card debt, needing a new eyeglass prescription, or sending a long overdue thank you note. Really, it could be anything nagging at you. Big or small, these energy suckers leave us feeling creatively wiped. It’s like falling asleep on an air mattress with a tiny leak that you’ll get to later: you fall asleep just fine, but by 1am you’re in the middle of a sunken pile of plastic. Fix the tiny leak today. Hold onto your creative energy as if it’s sacred, because it is.

Thoughts/Attitude. Often we have to destroy our own ego before we can authentically create. If fear of what others will think of our work is debilitating, then we’re not approaching it in the way the work deserves. If we only create for everyone else, our work will never be good enough for us. This doesn’t just apply to creation, either. If we behave only to make others happy, we’ll never find our authentic self.

Perspective. Remember the scene in Dead Poet’s Society where Mr. Keating has the boys stand on a desk to see the room in a different way? Try that. And then try leaving the house. Or volunteering. Or taking a trip. After that, do whatever it is that will force you to look at your office, studio, or the world, in a different way.

The mundane. Is your life feeling like Groundhog day? Figure out where you can make tiny shifts to spice up your day. Anyone who has been to couples or sex therapy knows what I’m talking about here. Moving slightly outside of your routine can pay huge dividends.

As Marcel Duchamp reminds us, “Destruction is also creation.” I’d argue that you actually can’t have one without the other. They are the yin and yang of our creative energy and need to be treated as such. They balance each other; one no less important than the other. If you’re having trouble creating, try destroying something first.

So whether you’re experiencing a midwestern spring like me, or live in perpetual Los Angeles paradise, think about what you want this season to represent for you and your work. What needs to be destroyed in order for you to create?