The Importance of Down Time

On the seventh day, God rested from all His work and blessed it, calling it holy.



As a person with an over-active creative mind, it isn't easy to focus. I imagine OCD is one of the things that naturally come with hyper-creativity.


I think that perhaps creative people may also be workaholics.


At least these are true for me. Being an OCD workaholic hyper-creative person, sometimes I am tempted to push too far, do too much, keep going when I should stop and rest. Knowing when to take a break and when to create is probably one of the more important keys to creating art, whether writing a novel, painting, or really, anything creative.


Over the years, I had caught myself in school, waiting until the last minute to do my projects. Why? For some reason, the pressure of having a limited time to complete something would give me vigor, inspiration, and zeal to complete the task at hand.


Rarely did I finish a project early. More often, I would be putting the final touches on my project in the classroom just before handing it in.


As an adult, I have discovered the perpetual state of being tired and worn out. My wife and I, having raised six children, we are no stranger to working non-stop. My wife happens to be a workaholic as well. So on that front, we do not balance each other out in the least.


One of us pushes hard to overwork, to which the other replies, "good thinking," and joins in the slavery.



Now that the kids have grown, except for our youngest daughter, who still lives at home, I have found myself wanting a little more peace and serenity in my life.


I enjoy a quiet morning looking out the back window at the forest and pond, watching the deer as they cross the yard eating the green grass. I like to drink my coffee and think. I want to think about what I need to accomplish for the week, a story I need to work on, or a project that needs attention.


Through seeking this quiet time, I discovered something I never knew or didn't remember.


A break from work or creating does recharge you.


Take a break from physical work, and you will quickly realize the benefits. Catch your breath, muscles rest, the heart slows down a little, and before you know it, you are ready to go back at it.


However, when it comes to creativity or mental activities, such as calculating or doing bills, we don't always realize what a break can do for us. It's not as evident because it deals with the realm of the psychological mind.


But rest from mental/creative activities are just as good for us as from physical activity.


I remember one afternoon, after a terrible night's rest, I was already on my third or fourth large cup of coffee, and I had bookwork to do for the antique mall my wife and I own.

I made a mistake after mistake, and though I caught the mistakes, they kept happening, and it was getting quite frustrating.



My wife suggested I take a nap, which I resisted as a workaholic, but finally agreed. After a 20 minute nap, I awoke rejuvenated, like a new man. It was quite unbelievable how clear my head was and how awake I felt after only 20 minutes.


I quickly finished my bookwork without much effort.

When I write, I "feel" my brain thinking. It can be quite tiring sometimes. My mind runs full speed with thoughts, ideas, and the story, thinking about all the characters, imagining the dialog between them with their different personalities and mannerisms.


Writers call it "writer's block," artists call it "creative block," but whatever you want to call it, your brain has had enough!


It no longer wants to be creative, think, process, work overtime. Who can blame it? You push and push, stretching it to the point of breaking, then demand one more stroke of the brush, one more chapter.


Your brain goes on strike.


All of our children are artistic in their ways, and it is a blessing. At one time or another, they have each had to deal with creative blocks. I tell them the same thing I have to remind myself continually.



You are not a machine. For creativity to truly thrive and have masterful execution, it needs to come from a fresh well, not an empty pool. Besides, even a robot needs to recharge.


In high school, I witnessed many students who either took creative art classes for what they thought would be an easy grade to raise their GPA or were forced by their parents who wanted to live vicariously through their children.


The instructor, who was a very talented artist, would give the assignment. You would see students submit their finished work. Nothing more than their interpretation of the classroom example, not meant to be copied.


These students who copied the example, making a few alterations, either had no desire to be in the class or their talents were elsewhere.


One day, after a weekend of creativity at home where I painted a life-size mural of Miyamoto Musashi on my bedroom wall, I was tapped out. I had nothing left to give.



The teacher gave the assignment, and instead of allowing myself to be creative, I copied the example, made a few alterations, and turn in substandard work because my well was dry.


As a creative person, artist, writer, you need to allow your well to fill again, so you have something from which to draw.


There are many ways to refill yourself, many different techniques you can use to recharge that battery, fill that well, and reset your brain to renewed.


I use these differently; sometimes one is enough, sometimes I use multiple techniques, sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't.


Though we are all different, some techniques work for everyone.


  • Get proper sleep (restful, enough, not too much)

  • Eat a good diet (yes, I said it)

  • Drink a lot of water

These work for everyone.


You have to get restful sleep. Waking up multiple times through the night is not relaxing. Anyone who has had a baby can tell you this. The room must be dark, no distractions (lights/phone), and you must keep a routine. Have a set time every night, train your body to respond to "bedtime."


Try to get the proper amount of sleep for your age. Don't get too much sleep. It can have a negative effect on you!


Eat a good diet, vegetables, and foods with good fats (fish) and proteins will help your brain function efficiently. You can't eat garbage all of the time and expect to feel better than garbage.


Don't get me wrong, I love the occasional pizza with everything on it or a quick stop at Burger King, but only on days I have nothing else planned because you will feel tired, weighed down, and not have any energy to accomplish much.


Drink lots of water. Most people are borderline, if not fully dehydrated. They don't drink enough water. Do your research and see what dehydration does to a person. You may recognize a multitude of your daily complaints on that list!


So, these work for everyone, but some things may or may not work for you.


  • A peaceful walk through the woods

  • Reading a book

  • Sitting on the back porch thinking

  • Watching a movie

  • Playing cards or a board game

  • Going to the beach and watching the waves

These things work for me.


Sometimes I'll get a coffee and read a book. Sometimes watching a movie will spark creativity and inspiration. Sometimes spending time with the family and playing games refills me.


Years back, I would build models to relax and refill.

Different things work for other people. It would be best if you gave your brain time to recover from creativity, so it can continue to be a fruitful creative experience.


The last thing any creative person wants is for someone to look at our hard work as see a substandard, non-typical product we forced from the empty well.


It is better not to create than to force something that isn't truly from the best of you.


Take that break, and don't feel guilty about it. Think of it this way, when you draw from the nearly empty well, the water is murky and muddy. If you let the well refill, the soot settles, and the water you draw is pure, fresh, clean, this is your creativity.


So take that break; afterward, go and create something amazing!

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