The art of idleness


What is the relationship between rest and creativity, and how can downtime boost our productivity? Here, the creatives discuss how rest inspires their work as artists and why slowing down has such an important role to play.

Some of the most creative people in history have tied their artistic success to moments of idleness. Mozart, for example, once described how he imagined new melodies while eating in a restaurant, returning home from a meal, or preparing for bed.

Like an unexpected spark of light, we often don’t know when a sudden burst of inspiration will come, stopping us in our tracks with a brilliant new idea, thought or achievement. Creativity, in fact, is both a mysterious and magical feat.

In an article by The New York Times, essayist and cartoonist Tim Kreider draws on the intrinsic relationship between rest and creativity: “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice. It is as essential to the brain as vitamin D is to the body.

“The space and calm that idleness provides is a necessary condition for taking a step back from life and seeing it as a whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the crazy flashes of summer inspiration” , he wrote.

It is, concludes Kreider, paradoxically, necessary for the realization of any work.

Creativity in full bloom

When lockdown began in March 2020, many people across the UK experienced increased downtime and a marked slowdown in their pace of life. With that, many have also embraced the lockdown as an opportunity to learn something new.

A survey of 1,000 women in Britain, conducted by online florist Serenata Flowers, found that half of its participants have taken up a new hobby during the pandemic, with 67% practicing their new skills at least once per week and learning a new skill, or taking up a hobby, has even been strongly recommended by Public Health England as a way to manage mental health.

There is also a fascinating science behind it. A study exploring the concept of “mind wandering”, conducted by the University of York and the University of California, indicated that more than 40% of creative ideas arise during breaks and downtime, when our mind is free to rest and roam.

Research has suggested that the parts of the human brain that stimulate creativity are most active when we don’t have to focus, with the moments of creativity and innovation occurring when we’re at rest.

Therefore, creativity, whether it exists as expression, enterprise, remedy (or all of the above), arguably cannot exist in full bloom without a level of rest and idleness.

The beauty of procrastination

Judith Achumba-Wöllenstein is co-founder and creative director of fashion psychology magazine, Hajinsky.

Drawing on her background in cognitive psychology, Judith explains that during times when our minds aren’t focused, or when we’re doing something repetitive, like washing the dishes or listening to a podcast, we access parts of our brains. which are much more complex. .

This is when our mind is able to gather information and create new solutions, she says.

“I’ve always loved running, so I often think of solutions while I’m running,” says Judith.

“Sometimes I’m a procrastinator, but often times it’s in those moments of procrastination that I find the answers to a problem I’ve been figuring out all night.”

Exploring the close connection between rest and creativity, Judith notes: “Rest often involves a process of clarifying our inner world. Most of the time, the work we do is not the kind that everyone can see. It is the internal work of building on our relationships and our identities.

“When we neglect to take care of our inner world, it can hold us back in our creative process,” says Judith.

Rest comes in different shapes and sizes for different people at different times, she adds.

For her, it doesn’t always take the traditional form of sitting down and putting her feet up, but it can feel like pursuing a new project, working wholeheartedly on something she’s passionate about, or spending time in the community.

The value of the margin

“I think of the rest as the margins around the page of a book I’m reading,” says poet, producer and musician Joshua Luke Smith.

Words matter but without the margins they collide and have no meaning, he says.

Joshua continues: “When I rest, I create order and context around everything I do. I do not rest as a reward, but to return to the original expression of human design. I am a being, not a doing.

Describing the rhythms of rest in his daily life, Joshua says: “Every morning I get up in front of my wife and daughter, just to be quiet.

“There’s a phrase I’ve seen circulating, especially among young entrepreneurs, that says ‘Never out of work.’ That sounds admirable and dedicated, but I think that would be the last thing we want our friends and family to say about us after we’re gone,” he notes.

“The question ‘How do I want those I love most to remember me?’ is the compass that allows me to avoid being busy and exhausted,” he says.

In the end, he concludes, he is a present, available, grateful and loving man.

The ebb and flow of creation

Multidisciplinary visual artist, Lois Seco, creates from the philosophical belief that art connects us to something greater than ourselves.

Although her experience of rest has changed a lot since becoming a mother, Lois feels more at peace when she creates.

“When I’m practicing line art, playing with colors, or experimenting with art, there’s a real sense of peace, calm, and wholeness within me,” she says.

For her, creative ideas come to mind freely during the idle, autopilot moments of her day, like when she’s driving or lying in bed.

“Rest is the action of gaining more energy and feeling full,” she says.

Speaking of how rest influences her work as an artist, Lois reveals, “If rest weren’t part of the ebb and flow of my life, I would have a hard time creating.

Seeking and finding beauty in the world around her, Lois searches for unique color palettes, rock formations and mesmerizing landscapes while walking.

“It’s the rest that directly affects my work,” she recalls.

Sharing a warm word of wisdom for anyone struggling with burnout, Lois suggests, “Why not make a mental or physical list of all the things that make you feel alive that you can practically fit into your week? “

She recommends writing down a list of actions after the statement “I feel most rested when…”. Then, even if it’s only five minutes a day, make a habit of prioritizing those things.

To get in touch with a life coach and find out more about how creativity can improve your well-being, visit


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