Why Creative Rest is Your Most Valuable Resource

I don’t know about you, but I often have a hard time making decisions. This is why I look up restaurant menus several hours before going out to eat, so I walk in the door, already knowing what I’m going to order, rather than letting my dining companions and the poor server watch me vacillate for what seems like hours. It’s really for the best.

Sometimes, in the creative process, I get stalled trying to make a decision. I spend what seems like hours mulling over possible outcomes from the slightest turn of a phrase. Part of that is the natural creative process, but some of it is also decision fatigue.

From the moment we wake up each day, we’re faced with a continuous stream of choices, most of which are minute—what route we take to work, what kind of coffee to order at Starbucks, and what to make for dinner. Other decisions have greater implications—whether to accept a new job, what city to move to, and whether it’s finally time to cut ties with that toxic relative you dread seeing at family gatherings.

When there are too many options, we tend to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed. The brain then overloads and shuts down.

So, where does this leave creative professionals?

I believe that creativity is not some mystical gift bestowed upon us by the Gods. Instead, it is a talent and a skill that should be nurtured. Sometimes, we find ourselves exhausted and teetering on the verge of burnout. Often, rest is what we need to snap out of it.

When most people think of rest, they think of taking a vacation. That sounds like a great idea but forcing my monkey brain to pipe down and enjoy a week on the beach is just plain HARD for me. I’m working on it, but still…

There are fantastic articles all over the internet about the types of rest that people need. The one I keep coming back to the most is creative rest, which is especially crucial for those who need to innovate on a daily basis. The brain needs time to idle.

This got me thinking about what creative rest looks like for me. Let me give you an example—let’s say one Sunday, I decide I need to experience some culture and take a family outing to the local art museum. There’s a fantastic exhibit that I have been dying to see. After the show, I follow up on that experience, rather than sit with it and let my brain process it naturally—maybe I share it on social media, send a link to a review to a friend, or try to find meaning in it right away. Not giving the brain time to be idle is what leaves us feeling drained and frustrated.

To me, creative rest is deliberately taking a break from synthesizing, analyzing, producing, and or even making creative decisions. However, it gets tricky when you realize that these actions are involved in our day-to-day existence. Even if we can’t escape these things every day, we can at least be aware we’re doing them.

What if we established one day each week without synthesizing, producing, or solving? On that one day, if I were to read, it would just be for fun. If I saw art, I wouldn’t try to come up with a P.O.V. immediately. If I were to go shopping, it wouldn’t be to serve any particular agenda. It may even involve dusting off an old coloring book just because it makes me smile.

So, if you feel exhausted and your creative energy is very “meh,” just start small. One day per week of true creative rest feels like a freaking miracle these days. I wish it for us all.

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