Do we need to keep busy to be creatively productive?
Shouldn’t we keep practicing, keep learning to be good at creative thinking and creative work?
A number of psychologists and artists say daydreaming or otherwise “wasting time” is actually a way to enhance creativity.
She comments, “I felt I had wasted most of the day because I wasn’t actually writing.
“This can be one of the trickiest parts of being a writer, this need to fool around to be creative, and to be okay with that.”
From her book A Year of Writing Dangerously.
[Photo at top from post Miss Pykowski…listen up…it’s okay to daydream.]
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In his post In Praise of Goofing Off, psychologist Dennis Palumbo notes, “Some people call it puttering, or screwing around, or just plain goofing off. Others, of a more kindly bent, call it day-dreaming.
“Kurt Vonnegut used the quaint old term ‘skylarking.’
“What I’m referring to, of course, is that well-known, rarely discussed but absolutely essential component of a successful creative person’s life — the down-time, when you’re seemingly not doing anything of consequence.
“Certainly not doing anything that pertains to that deadline you’re facing: the pitch meeting set for next week, the screenplay you’ve been toiling over, the important audition that’s pending.”
But, he explains, “there’s a very subtle difference between procrastination and creative, productive, process-nourishing goofing off.
“Procrastination, as I see in my therapy practice every day, is a product of an artist’s inner conflicts around his or her creative gifts.
“Fears about failure, questions about one’s sense of entitlement, doubts about competence, concern about the potential for shameful exposure.”
Dennis Palumbo, MFT, is a former screenwriter, now licensed psychotherapist specializing in creative issues.
Creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD asks in his book Mastering Creative Anxiety, “Are you creating less often than you would like? Are you avoiding your creative work altogether? Do you procrastinate?. That’s anxiety.”
From my post Creative Anxiety – Are You Procrastinating?
It may not be so easy for some of us to goof off or take time away from work.
In her article What’s the rush?, coach Jenna Avery, who works with creative and highly sensitive people, writes,
“Internally, many of us feel driven to perform, excel, and succeed. We want to do good work… We feel flawed for being highly sensitive and try to prove that we are not.
“We feel behind on life’s accomplishments.
“We over-schedule because we don’t want to miss anything… We are filled with passions, visions, and projects that compel us forward, taking on more and more.”
Being driven can lead to burnout
But – as I have experienced on a number of occasions – that drivenness can have a dark side, as I wrote about in my post Multiple Talents, Multiple Passions, Burnout.
Joyce Carol Oates, who certainly knows something about creative accomplishment, comments in her book The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art:
“It’s bizarre to me that people think that I am ‘prolific’ and that I must use every spare minute of my time when in fact, as my intimates have always known, I spend most of my time looking out the window (I recommend it).”
Also see my post Developing Creativity by Staring Out the Window.
The value of non-verbal time
Energy psychiatrist Judith Orloff, MD is an assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and author of multiple books on synthesizing traditional medicine with intuition, subtle energy, and spirituality.
In an issue of her newsletter (June 9, 2017), she writes about the value of one form of taking time off, especially for highly sensitive people and empaths.
In my life as an empath, I’m realizing, ever more deeply, the need for non-verbal time each day.
This is time when I don’t talk at all to anyone – I don’t talk on the phone, answer emails, go on the internet, or work my linear brain too hard. Non-Verbal time is a period when you don’t try to figure anything out or talk.
Instead, it is quiet interlude to feel, to observe nature, to be with animals, to meditate, to walk, or to sense the spaces between things, to stare into space (something I love to do).
It’s a time to breathe, to stretch my body and let my imagination wander to where it wants to go without any plan or direction.
I hope you can allow for some non-verbal time each day.
For me, it’s such a relief not to talk for a while. This soothes my brain and quiets my soul. I suggest you create some non-verbal time for yourself too!
Dr. Orloff also notes people “can find more strategies to create non-verbal time and calm and center yourself” in her book The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.
See more about the book and her related title Essential Tools for Empaths: A Survival Guide for Sensitive People Audio CD, in the article: Judith Orloff – Thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person or Empath.