THE END OF THE LINE
I drew this in my sketchbook at the tail end of a really rough couple months. In February, my grandmother who I was close to, passed away. After that, I had a series of migraines and other physical problems that left me struggling to keep up with work and teaching. I was swamped with a ton of work as well. And then, I got the flu. I had to cancel EVERYTHING. All of my classes, parties, meetings. This is extremely difficult for me to do because I am a bit of a people pleaser and I like to be very dependable at all costs. So there I was... still trying to work but taking breaks to sleep and rest. It left me time to think...how did I get myself into this cycle of craziness that left me sick and overwhelmed?
Of course, not all of it was my fault, anyone can get sick or get migraines. But I thought about my promise to myself at the beginning of the year. I had made one of my goals to be more intentional about taking time to regroup. I did pretty well in January of not getting too busy with work or overwhelmed with meetings but as the year got going, my new classes began and I was getting a lot of work. My intentions went out the window!
Luckily, I had a vacation planned and it was unlike anything I've ever done. Normally, I'm a doer on vacation. I like to visit as many sites, restaurants, coffee shops and possible. I usually am so exhausted by the evening time that I just want to stay in and read or watch movies. There isn't much room for contemplation, relaxation, rest, creativity. And I think that kind of exploration definitely has it's place. There is nothing like traveling to a new place to inspire creativity.
This vacation was different because my friend had invited to go to a meditation and yoga retreat in the Bahamas. Neither one of us knew what to expect about this place but it was a wonderful experience. They had meditation in the morning and evening and yoga classes throughout the day. Our room was right on the water and I could hear the waves through the window. Soon after I got there, I could feel myself calming down. How many times do we get a chance to just be? To just observe the world around us, be in the moment and contemplate.
So why is taking time off so good for our creative brain? Even if you don’t THINK that you are creative… you are. In whatever job you have, you think in a creative way, come up with solutions to problems, find patterns. Those are all creative ways of thinking. Our capacity for output is only as good as our input. We spend so much time working and thinking about work that our brains get overloaded with information. Everyone needs a different amount of free time for their brain to sort through all of that information, but everyone does need some time.
SLOWING DOWN CAN LEAD TO NEW IDEAS
The scientific evidence is piling up, telling us that taking time off is actually MORE productive in the long run.
"Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets," essayist Tim Kreider wrote in the article "The Busy Trap" for The New York Times. "The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done."
Our brain doesn’t slow down when we are resting, enjoying nature, cooking or doodling. Just like when you are sleeping, your brain is processing information in the background. Especially in creative people, we are working out experiences, moral dilemmas, solving problems. Most likely, an epiphany will come when your mind is wandering or you are in the shower. Have you ever noticed how much clearer your thinking is when you are in a state of relaxation? When we are relaxed, we can be more spontaneous, new connections and ways of seeing things come into our minds.
“Psychologists have established that vacations have real benefits. Vacations likely revitalize the body and mind by distancing people from job-related stress; by immersing people in new places, cuisines and social circles, which in turn may lead to original ideas and insights; and by giving people the opportunity to get a good night’s sleep and to let their minds drift from one experience to the next, rather than forcing their brains to concentrate on a single task for hours at a time. - Ferris Jabr of Scientific American
BEING IN THE MOMENT
This is one of the things I emphasize in my class Finding your Creative Voice. We don’t have to sit perfectly still and meditate in silence on a cushion to be in the moment. This means taking time to observe. And observation is the beginning of CREATIVITY. Only when When we take time to just “be” instead of always doing, we start to notice things…not only creative connections but we notice what we enjoy and what we don’t enjoy. How will you ever find what the next step on your journey should be unless you stop and listen?
Instead of plowing through that chocolate cake, think…do I like this? what do I like about it? What kind of textures are in my mouth? What kind of chocolate is it? What kind of things do I notice about the appearance of it?
When we are so busy, we miss all of the small things that we could be observing. These things nourish our soul and help lead us down a path of creative insight. In order to be creative in whatever job we have, we need time to explore, to wander, see things from a different angle, to fill up the reserves.
What kind of things help your brain to get into that relaxed state where creativity can thrive?
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