A Personal Reflection: Embracing Some Creative Downtime

November 27th, 2019

This is my third blog topic of the night.  Do you ever start something creative and realise you are just not feeling it? That’s been me for the last hour.

It was the same yesterday morning.  I’m unsure if it’s tiredness, hormones, a combination of the two or something else, but I have experienced a sporadic loss of energy this week.  It is however very sporadic because, in contrast, the other half of my week has been super productive. Almost productive and creative to the extreme.

I suspect this is just the creative process in play. I remember reading once, albeit I can’t remember the reference, how we can be more creative if we simply start where we are.  That is, not artificially trying to put ourselves into a state of creativity, just making a start.  This is the first step of the process which allows us to be creative more consistently.

However, we also know that your brain needs downtime if you are to be and remain creative. Research says the taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves creativity and if you miss breaks you can become tired or at the more extreme, exhausted, stressed and hit a creativity block.

As anyone who follows my blog will know, my daily blog publishing is a non-negotiable and I have written and published every day this year so far.  This is the 331st consecutive day.  What this has meant is that despite being tired or lacking something to say, I have had to overcome both and press on.  This means that tonight I have started 2 other blogs but after a minute or so of writing, I stopped each of them as I just wasn’t feeling those creative juices.  Theoretically, had I not made this daily commitment, perhaps I should have just gone to bed.  But the very fact that I have to press on, I find myself only a matter of minutes being inspired to reflect and in flow sharing this thought.  However, I don’t see this reflection as particularly creative, it is my brain taking the easier route of offloading rather than creating something new.  Clever brain I say!

The importance of my having a creative break was highlighted to me yesterday morning.  I set myself a goal and immediately felt very guilty for not doing a creative activity I had planned to do.  I even talked it through with a friend and it became apparent that I was actually seeking permission from myself to have a break.  I was not ditching my plan for the day but was allowing myself some space to do something else first.  The result was unexpected.  I rested in creativity terms and got on with something which required less brainpower.  Within a couple of hours, allowing my mind to wander whilst I worked on my admin, I was refreshed and raring to go.  I ended my day having achieved more than I had planned in addition to catching up with girlfriends for a birthday celebration.  I gave my mind permission to rest and refresh.

My reflection is how important it is to have creative breaks and we are still capable of achieving other tasks in those downtimes too.  It is, therefore, possible to plan and shift our day around accordingly.  If creativity doesn’t come, perhaps press on with something less creative, but beware of fatigue, the mental exhaustion associated with procrastination which is not the same as tiredness which is in the main physical.  Do not continually take creative breaks when procrastination induced fatigue is disguised as being tired.  Try to recognise when you are putting something off versus genuinely needing a break.

Something that I always remind the people I work with and have to nudge myself to do too and that is to be kind to yourself.  Recognise that we all need creativity downtime, general downtime and self-care and at no point should we feel guilty about scheduling or adding this into our day.

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