The Importance of Staring at a Wall

Over the course of the past month, I’ve had a bunch of random days off between semesters. My plan was to spend a lot of time writing, but I knew that I’d ultimately be distracted. So I decided to pay attention to my creative energy instead.

Though I had a great time last semester, I was mentally exhausted by the end. For about two weeks, I could do nothing more on my days off than stare at the wall and go to holiday parties.

Around the new year, I started reading everything in sight. I was devouring books, reading two to three books at a time, spending luxurious hours with books that I had been wanting to read, and rereading books that I remembered I had once loved.

Soon after, I started to write and revise voraciously, which I hadn’t really done (at least not at this pace) since early summer, when I had some time off between jobs. For the past two weeks (on the days I don’t work at my other job), I have done nothing but read, write, eat, and sleep.

I realize what a luxury this is, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to focus on my own work. But does it really have to be a luxury? In an ideal world, all creative people – heck, ALL people – would be able to recharge their creative batteries. Wouldn’t we all be more productive, capable, and creative members of society if we could just take one step back from our crazy lives and breathe?

I don’t believe anyone who says that people reach a creative peak in their 20s. Children are more creative than adults because they have more time to daydream. When was the last time you can remember being bored? “Boredom” is a key ingredient in creativity – you need idle time to let your mind flourish. Everything else is just clutter.

One day of vacation is not enough to inspire creativity. Usually, I just need one day to do things that don’t require any thought: painting my nails, cleaning the house. The real creative sparks don’t fly until I’ve shaken off all my mental fatigue, usually a week or two after the fact.

Can’t we all get sabbaticals of sorts? They’re usually more reserved for people who have “paid their dues” in the working world; these people have accumulated weeks worth of vacation. But I have so much creative energy that I squash with my exhaustion. We’d emerge so much healthier and more ready to conquer the most difficult challenges if we could all have some time to daydream.

Though excited to start the new semester this week, I’m kind of terrified of losing this creative streak. I’ll be clinging for dear life to this blog, which provides structured creative release. I’m just hoping I can continue some of the momentum I’ve gained, at least for a little while.

(Photo by kerryvaughan)

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