Creativity in Hard Times

This post has been a few weeks in the works…at least bouncing around in my head.   I am feeling surprisingly optimistic and I am wondering if you might be feeling the same.

My optimism is, to me, a sign that I have come true to myself.   To explain what I mean– I have not always been in the world of design, I left university with a degree in physics and a job with Hughes Aircraft working on flight simulators….this was lovely for me as I have always been into flying.  But with promotions and job changes I slipped down the slippery slope of the corporate world until I was very well paid for a job I hated.  I cried daily when I awoke and had to go to my job, I had no idea how I would live without that big fat salary check, and I wasn’t sure I knew myself well enough to have to confidence to make a change.  I feared making a mistake, giving it all up and possibly finding that there was really something wrong with me because I might equally loathe whatever new thing I tried.    Happily, though it took a couple years of soul searching and stars aligning, I finally went back to school while living in England and have been working in design and creative endeavors ever since.  I don’t make even a fraction of what I once made, but while this can get me down, I am overall so much happier (and hopefully someday I will get back to the big fat income).

Keep with me, I am going somewhere here…  So it seems like the current economic stress that we all have should have me revisiting my past (i.e. less resources, uncertainty about the future, etc.). While I was feeling that stress, I suddenly am not.   Why, because it seems to be causing my creativity to flourish and that is having remarkable effects on my outlook.

Studying history, often periods of great invention and progress follow hard economic times or occur while nations are at war.  Is that what is happening here?   I think it might be.  I am feeling this cultural shift towards a new resourcefulness, and optimism.

Is it a new president? Maybe a bit.

Is it possible that writing this blog and getting know other bloggers and creative people has an effect? Maybe a bit more.

I don’t think this is all of it though and I am still trying to put my finger on precisely what it is.

Is it that:

  1. I don’t have clients looking for cookie cutter solutions.  They are starting to be more inclined to think outside the box with me.
  2. I don’t have clients who are trying to keep up with the Jones’ quite so much…have they given up?
  3. I have less and so does everyone else, does that make us more honed on what matters most to each of us individually? more picky?
  4. I seem to have more time….but maybe that is just seasonal — at least in my business.
  5. I am more resourceful and therefore more creative…
  6. I have this feeling that we will emerge better and stronger.  Design will move forward in leaps and bounds.  We will nurture our uniqueness and creativity more.
  7. or maybe I have had too much egg nog lately and I am going a little bit silly….

This is all swirling in my head and I am wondering if I am alone here.  Are you feeling it too?  I hope so.  Why do you think it is?   Lets discuss.

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Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.


  1. Michelle Derviss on December 8, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    I’m glad that someone is feeling happily enthusiastic !!
    I hope some of it rubs off on me.
    I guess I am not feeling ‘ the love’ these days because the creativity in my design work has been clipped a bit ( quite a bit ), and this always leaves me feeling melancholy and quite honestly , aggravate and irritated.
    I currently have a client base who are not not interested in exploring sculptural and creative solutions. The key words seems to be ‘Safe Traditional Design’ .
    I sit here wondering why the F did these people even hire me in the first place ?
    Truthfully, I’ve been given some creative discretion, but on the whole , my current client base is being pretty conservative in their design approach.

    In turn, I’ve become more creative in my own studio projects, which feeds my soul, but first and foremost , for better or for worse, I am shaped and fed by what I do in my work ( my life as pathetic as that sounds ) and I have been stifled for the past several projects.

    As I look back on the last few, and the current installations, I take stock and think to myself, Crap, there is nothing here worth photographing or feeling incredibly proud of.
    Sure the projects are well crafted and designed, but nothing cutting edge, thought provoking or new, which is what I strive for, .. for both myself and my clients.
    This leave me feeling flat , almost like it was a waste of time and a waste of my talent ( hope that last part doesn’t sound too ego centric )

    But the bills must be paid. So in a way I prostitute myself and lower my standards to suit the clients lack luster desires.

    I hope the new year brings some more receptive design clients.


  2. Blue Fox on December 9, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Thank you for such a positive and uplifting post! I was in the same situation, yeah, lots of money, no time or energy for the things I was trained for (ornamental horticulture) and suddenly, there I was, post surgery and on a long slow climb to recover. I am a lot happier, although now I have the opposite problem of no money, lots of time!

  3. rochelle on December 10, 2008 at 6:15 am

    oh michelle…I feel your pain…admittedly my own pursuits are feeding me much more than my clients too…but I am ok with it (at least for now). I am mentally sending you my positive energy…I hope you can feel it.

  4. christianbarnardlandscapestudio on December 17, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Creativity involves continually exploring oneself. I never stop being creative, during the good and tough times. In fact the current political, financial and social climate is ideal for people like ourselves. We are the problem solvers and innovators of the new world. It is time for a change and I am up for the challenge. Great post Studio G!

  5. SUSHIL on December 29, 2008 at 4:22 am


  6. Bruce Davidson on January 6, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Hi Rochelle, Great post. I find myself turning up the heat on myself and imagining more. I also find it helpful as you said, to reframe the “crisis” as a new beginning of an era where people take stock of whats important. I am old enough to have lived through 5 wrenching economic shifts and each time I have made changes in how I approached projects and always improved my situation through the adverse time. Usiually it has been through finding new niche markets and ways of applying and enhancing my creative suite of tools. Posting some of my art at
    Look forward to working with something with you someday.

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