The Creative Power of Rest


The vacation I didn’t want to take forced me to realize that hibernation isn’t so bad. In fact, the bears just might be on to something . . .

Total control of my time is one of the perks of my self-employment. It’s also one of the pitfalls.

As a control freak, I love managing my time to the last detail. On the flip side, genuine rest is rarely on my to-do list.

I’m proud to say I changed this in 2015.

Over the last two weeks of December, I took a vacation from my business and from formal creative production. Not the kind of vacation that keeps one foot in the office and the other on the couch. A full, complete and total shut-down.

I did not want to take this rest. In fact, I fought it hard. My creative coach Victoria was the first to encourage this break and also the one to talk me off the ledge when I threatened to cancel it altogether.

“I don’t want to do this!” I said. “It doesn’t feel natural for me, and my head is spinning. I have too much to do.”

Her response hit home. “You don’t have to like resting, but you do have to realize you need it.”

She couldn’t have been more right about that.

When I turned in my last business deadline, I did not know what to do with myself. For the first week, I wandered around in a fog of exhaustion, sleeping and getting small tasks done. (That should have been my first clue I needed the rest, eh?)

The second week brought a full moon, and with it, a spike in energy that pulled me into my art studio. Even so, I determined not to fall victim to my production agenda but to spend the remaining seven days happily catching up on historical drama while I tried 27 painting and making techniques (yes, I counted!) that I would never otherwise have given myself time to discover.

During this time I started an art journal. I developed a mixed media technique I want to expand this year into a steampunk art series. I had time to laugh and cry over some really well-written TV stories that will impact my work in the year to come. And I ate myself silly on Christmas leftovers. (Okay, so maybe that last one was not *so* healthy, but it surely was therapeutic!)

I slept when I felt tired and worked when I did not. This meant I lost track of days and nights, but learned ever so much in the most delightful way possible.

My break forced me to see rest in a whole new light. I was actually terribly productive—but I was productive by working on me, and my interests, instead of the dictates of an arbitrary list.

I also had another epiphany: my body naturally likes resting at the nadir of the year. When it is sunny out, even partially, I can easily work 15 hours a day and not notice the time has gone by. But the closer we get  to the solstice, and the darker the world gets, the harder I find it to even muster even six hours of traditional productivity.

The vacation I didn’t want to take forced me to realize that hibernation isn’t so bad. In fact, the bears just might have a point. My vacation worked with the rhythm of my body instead of against it. Stepping away from the world during its darkest time helped me come out the gate stronger, wiser, and more ready for action in the year ahead.

If my body wants to rest during this time, then according to my personal beliefs, this is likely how God made me. Who am I to fight against that?

Perhaps for you this “lazy time” (in the best sense of the word “lazy”) is the summer when your body calls you out continually into the sunshine. Or perhaps it’s in fall right after the kids have gone back to school, or the spring right after the snows have melted and the first scent of flowers wafts in your newly-opened windows.

Whatever it is, maybe it’s time we all stopped listening to our rational minds, and started listening to our intuition.

For years I told myself I didn’t deserve this time off, or that other people didn’t take it, so what gave me the right? This year, I’m learning to accept that the opportunities that I believe are sent by God to all of us, if we are wise and awake enough to see them.

It doesn’t matter how others choose to manage their time. My only responsibility is me.

And for me, maybe the best way to manage it . . . is sometimes not to manage it.

Which got me thinking.

December is always a productivity wash for me (even with a sunlight lamp!), and a deep struggle of self-loathing, as the world wraps me in darkness. Next year, instead of beating myself up for my lack of focus, what if I worked like crazy eleven months of the year, when I do feel *almost* manic in my energy levels, and then took all of December off as my month to rejuvenate, reflect, plan and try new artistic techniques or create new business products to release in the new year?

Four weeks off might not happen (yet) in 2016, but another two-week vacay over Christmastime is definitely on my schedule again. And I’m starting to align creative and business planning, including my income needs, to accommodate the real possibility of a four-week creative rejuvenation followed by eleven months of production.

Take a tip from the bears: we goers and doers need some serious down time. Our bodies crave it, and our souls do, too.

Even if it doesn’t sound sane, it truly is necessary.

Give yourself permission.

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