If you work full time and only have two full days truly to yourself to go in whatever direction you want, it can be hard to admit or come to terms with the fact that sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to just STAY HOME. Especially, if you like to go on long hikes like I do, you may be sitting home looking out the window while you write or clean or bake, at the bright blue sky that doesn’t have a cloud in it. But, hopefully by taking some quiet time to yourself, your mind will kind of mirror that blue sky with no clouds. The slate will be wiped clean and there will be a blank canvas there for new ideas to sprout up, for you to move forward with clarity and put yourself in the best position for whatever it is you are working on. I think a step backward or a slight pause, standing in one spot in order to take two steps forward in the right direction, is a good trade off! And apparently so do a lot of others. So take a look below to see quotes from Thoreau to Marie Kondo, that all support this notion of rest, doing a little less, and subtracting rather than adding to our days.
1. “It’s always a mistake to equate productivity and creativity, they are not the same. In fact, they are frequently at odds with each other. You are often the most creative when you’re the least productive.” Austin Kleon, Author of Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
2. “When in doubt, tidy up.” Eno. Ever find that as you tidy up you find things you forgot you were looking for? This morning I found an LL Bean giftcard and an uncashed check! Also, you may even find a couple books or poems you forgot about. Sit on the floor, take everything out of that cabinet and look through. You never know what you will find that will either surprise or inspire you.
3. “It’s the American view that everything has to keep climbing; productivity, profits, even comedy.” George Carlin “But we need time for reflection, too, and just like nature is cyclical, you have to be in touch with the cycles of your creative output and learn to be patient in the offseasons. You have to give yourself time to change and observe your own patterns.” Austin Kleon
4. “Live in each season as it passes and resign yourself to the influences of each” Thoreau. It is natural to want to stay inside more when the temperatures drop. Bears and animals hibernate, our bodies want to, too! “Evidence from bones found at one of the world’s most important fossil sites suggests that our hominid predecessors may have dealt with extreme cold hundreds of thousands of years ago by sleeping through the winter.” Robin McKie “One way to get in touch with your own seasons is to observe the seasons in nature. Watch the sun rise and set, draw the same tree for a week.” Austin Kleon
5. “Letting go is even more important than adding.” Marie Kondo also, “From the moment you start tidying you will be compelled to change your life.” Taking the day to tidy up and empty closets and drawers that we’ve been shoving things into in exchange for being compelled to change another area of our lives?! Yes, please! Marie is the best selling author of the hit, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and I suggest picking up a copy to see HOW you should be going through the clutter, how to determine what to keep and what to let go of.
6. “Sleep tidies up the brain”, says Austin Kleon. “Naps are essential to my process, not dreams but that state adjacent to sleep, the mind unwaking.” William Gibson “It’s mostly napping.” says filmmaker Ethan Cohen of his and his brother Joel’s creative process. “I consider naps to be another form of magical tidying that seems unproductive but often leads to new ideas.” Austin also included in his book the fact that Salvador Dali liked to take a nap while holding a spoon. As he dozed off he’d drop the spoon and wake up but still be in the dream-like state he needed for his surreal paintings.
7. “Sometimes we have to take a couple of steps back in order to move forward again in the right direction.” Red Fairy Project
“It is necessary sometimes to take one step back to take two steps forward.” Vladimir Lenin
8. “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice,” Tim Kreider writes in The New York Times. “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. 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.”
9. “In winter I plot and plan. In spring, I move.” Henry Rollins (Enough said, thank you, Henry!)
10. And just because we are home doesn’t mean we can’t be active by taking walks in the neighborhood or doing a workout on YouTube. “Sometimes the best way to give our minds a rest is to give our bodies a workout. Counterintuitively, as our minds relax, they often come up with their most creative ideas. Walking jostles them loose. It’s a technique that’s been proven not just anecdotally (everyone from Henry David Thoreau to Steve Jobs swore by it), but scientifically. One study found that walking outside produced twice as many creative ideas as sitting in a room.” Excerpt taken from Musicbed Blog, Article: 5 Important Forms of Creative Rest
I often experience this where I have ideas or little insights while walking the dogs. I sometimes have to stop exactly where I am and not take another step further while I either speak or type it into the Notes app on my phone. The key is to at some point look back at the ideas you’ve accumulated. 😉
And here’s a bonus and something I do every morning – meditate! Not for the whole day, but can you spare 10 minutes?
From the Musicbed Blog, Article: 5 Important Forms of Creative Rest; We have to have clear minds before we can create anything with clarity. Mark McGuinness writes, for the site 99U: “Qualities such as focus, calmness, clarity, and insight are as important to your creative process as glamour and stimulation.” While we are often on the hunt to consume inspiring content, it is just as important that we take time to expel all the noise. There may be no better way to clear your head than through the regular practice of meditation.
Director David Lynch: “I started Transcendental Meditation in 1973 and have not missed a single meditation ever since. Twice a day, every day. It has given me effortless access to unlimited reserves of energy, creativity and happiness deep within. This level of life is sometimes called ‘pure consciousness’ — it is a treasury. And this level of life is deep within us all.”
Directing coach Adrienne Weiss on the power of meditation: “Most creative people I know — certainly people in the film world — feel this tension to do something good. We live in that state of tension all the time, mistakenly believing the tension is helping us, when really it’s just blocking our creativity. So that’s what I reminded myself when I started having that panic attack: my main job is to stay peaceful and take the actions I need to take.”
I’ll wrap up with this quote, “Self care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you,” Katie Reed. So take the time that you need to do anything from above list in order to not just give the world the best you have each day but to give yourself what you need to feel your best. Understanding that this can look different day to day and season to season. While we might be hike everyday of a 3 day weekend in the summer, we might take half of a 2 day weekend in the winter to relax. Pay attention enough to know what you need and then do it! You will be better for it.