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Image by Tallulah Howarth in response
to Lying Fallow workshop

A UNION Leeds Collaborative Learning Project

As creative practitioners and/or activists working in a capitalist society, it can be difficult to find stillness in our busy lives. In 1977, the Psychoanalyst Masud Khan proposed that stepping away from impulsive productivity to ‘lie fallow’ could aid creativity and allow us to know ourselves. Khan believes that fallow time is important to us becoming personalised, having a strong ‘inner reality, privacy, and a relatedness to the social environment’ (p.185).*

Masud Khan’s writings were one of the starting points for UNION Leeds alumni, writer Becky Cherriman and Performer, Designer and Maker Liza Cox, for their ‘Lying Fallow’ Collaborative Learning Project.  UNION gave them a small grant to research the following:

  • What happens to our creativity when we lie fallow/slow down?
  • Can making space for fallow periods be more sustainable for our bodies and creativity, and in other ways?
  • What might those fallow periods look like?

Becky and Liza planned the following:

  • Devise our own symbols for lying fallow, pesticidal and creative activities. This method of reflecting is inspired by Michal Korzonek’s method of journalling via symbols to address habit change[1].
  • Over a period of three months, keep a daily symbol diary of these activities. Reflect on these weekly using an adapted version of Laura Spencer’s ORID [2](objective, reflective, interpretive, decisional) method of reflection on experiential learning.
  • Have check-ins with one another on progress, roughly once a month.
  • Do a two-day digital-free retreat together where we lie fallow ‘intensively’ and observe results

Of course plans changed, and the two-day retreat morphed into both Becky and Liza committing to individually take some time completely away from paid work. Liza maintained ‘fallowness-in-mind’ throughout and took two fallow months off work, whilst Becky spent 8 months documenting as planned…

In May 2024, an online workshop was organised to share some of the learning with other UNION alumni. As Becky concluded:

“This project allowed Liza and I to make space for fallow periods, understand what fallow periods can look and feel like for us, and consider the relationship between fallowness and creativity.

The study suggests that regular fallow time could lead to:
i) increased time spent in creativity
ii) more creative output
iii) fewer pesticidal activities.”

And the workshop and the concept seemed to resonate with people:

“I really valued the workshop, in particular the exploration of what lying fallow might mean and how different people have thought about it. I definitely want to return to this because I feel that it links in with some of my mental health practices and some of the creative practises that I am building as a creative producer at the moment.”

Becky hasn’t finished with lying fallow yet! Apart from adapting her own practice based on what she has found from the learning project, she plans to:

  • run day retreats, and online courses
  • approach journals about publishing an article about the project
  • Partner with people and organisations to do further research into the social impacts of the relationship between lying fallow and creativity.

If you would like to know about these and other fallow-related opportunities, drop Becky an email ( and she can sign you up to the fallow email list.

“If anyone is interested in collaborating in something like this, please get in touch. I’d love to work with a university on this, for example…”


[1]Michal Korzonek, 2022, Watch your days unfold beautifully with infinity squares. Available from :

[2]Beevers, Gavin, 2017,  The ORID method. 15.7.2017. Available from:

* You can read the article that inspired this project here

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