Writers and other creatives really are their own worst enemies.
Have you noticed that? Isn’t it crazy? We are always the first people to criticize our work, run ourselves into the ground striving for impossible perfection, and just generally try to do ALL THE THINGS perfectly ALL THE TIME, convinced that everyone else totally has their act together and we’re the ones failing at creative life.
The strange irony to the epidemic of creative burn-out is that for most creatives their greatest ideas and boosts in creativity come when their mind is actually given a chance to rest and reflect. (I’m convinced this is why creatives always seem to have their best-seller brainstorms in the shower).
It seems counter-intuitive. The more you take time to rest and reflect, the more creative you’ll be and the more you’ll be able to accomplish? Really? If you’re anything like me, you subscribe to the opposite school of thought. The longer hours I work and the more I push myself, the more I’ll be able to accomplish.
But it’s true, isn’t it. This is why writer’s retreats are so popular (and wonderfully productive!). This is why many writers find they are most creative early in the morning or late at night when there are few distractions from the outside world and they can pause, rest, and reflect.
The key to greater creativity is strategic, intentional rest.
Notice I said strategic and intentional. This doesn’t mean the solution to writers’ block is Netflix binging (although, in some cases, it could be). This isn’t an excuse for procrastinating or a rationalization for not putting that butt in the chair and just writing.
But I’ve learned about myself that when I become emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausted I rapidly become less creative, less effective, and far less productive in my creative pursuits. My initial reaction to this creative fatigue is often to push harder and try to cram more into my day to make up for the work I’m not getting done. But I’m slowly learning that when I hit that wall, trying to muscle my way through only reduces the quality of my creative work, spikes my stress levels (which usually results in no exercise and skipping meals–bad!), and lowers my efficiency and productivity.
Have you ever felt that? Constant exhaustion. Little or no motivation to work on creative projects that would normally excite you. Writing a 500-word blog post takes twice the normal time and feels like pulling a cat through a keyhole (and is just as painful).
I’ve been in that zone the past few months and the last few weeks have been particularly stressful. So, for Valentine’s Day my fiance and me took a day off from everything. No job searching. No making phone calls or business emails. No wedding planning. No budgeting. We left our phones at his apartment and went and wandered around the zoo all day. We laughed, talked (how refreshing!), ate a picnic lunch and told stories about our favorite zoo experiences growing up. It was absolutely wonderful and so rejuvenating.
I didn’t feel like I had time to take the whole day off. I felt like I was constantly reminding people that I wouldn’t be taking phone calls that day. For the first couple hours I kept compulsively checking my pocket for my phone and thinking about the work that wasn’t getting done. (So silly, I know).
But, you know what? I woke up this morning relaxed and refreshed. I knocked out this blog post in a couple hours. I played with table decorations for an upcoming con where my friend will be selling books (check out A.C. Williams at GalaxyCon if you’re in the Colorado Springs area next week). I discussed ideas for our new Crosshair Press website redesign.
I’ve discovered that I am more productive, more creative, and definitely a happier and more relaxed person after taking a day off for intentional rest and refreshment.
So, if you’re in the zombie-zone right now, give yourself a break. Take time to do the things that refresh your soul and reignite your creative self. Read a book. Take a walk in the woods. Spend some time with one of your favorite people. Make a character mood board on Pinterest. Take a nap.
It may feel counter-intuitive, but you will come away refreshed and with a much-needed boost of creative energy in the long run!