Revisiting Is Doing Nothing Really Relaxing? Creative Flow Part 2

For the last two weeks of 2016, I am reposting some of my favorite weekly Studio Notes from throughout the past year. Sometimes reading a weekly article from earlier in the year can seem like reading someone’s writings because it was written so long ago. I found myself agreeing with the article and then I thought, well, of course I agree because I wrote it. Weirdly, sometimes I can take my own advice. In this case, creative flow can come from even just thinking about what I might want to create for next years series. So access to creative flow can be as easy as looking for inspiration for what to create next. If you are spending time traveling over the holidays and can’t bring any art materials along, never fear. You can just daydream about it.  Click this link to an article about that.

Enjoy this repost of Is Doing Nothing Really Relaxing? Creative Flow Part 2

Is Doing Nothing Really Relaxing? Creative Flow Part 2

June 27, 2016

I used to think in order to relax I had to just sit there and do nothing. If you do that, you realize very quickly that it is not always relaxing. You find yourself stewing about how tired you are, and what you just did that made you so tired, and how you don't want to do anything. I have found a much better way to relax.

Do something you like to do. Make something. Use your hands. Get out of your head. That place of making, doing, is what can be really refreshing.

It has a lot to do with getting into the creative flow.  I wrote about that a few months ago, What is Creative Flow and How Do We Get There?  The article can be found here. I focus on finding a regular creative practice as part of your daily life.  Sometimes you can’t get up and paint, or cook or photograph or play music. Then what?

Sometimes sitting and thinking can be relaxing if done a certain way.  You can think your way into creative flow even if you can’t physically make something. This can have a restorative effect just like the actual creating.

The beauty of creative flow by doing or thinking is that it can take you out of time. So even with a short period of time, you can feel refreshed because time has become a bit irrelevant.  A short time can feel like it has been a long time.  And the opposite can happen, just sitting for a short time doing nothing but forcing yourself to relax can feel like an awful long time, like watching the clock move.

 I love to ponder and think about new designs in my art or new activities I may want to try.  This is very different from sitting there forcing yourself to do nothing.  I guess it comes down to the attitude. To ponder and let your thoughts wander needs to have an open mind willing to explore different ideas.  This openness is what allows those appearingly random connections to happen.

The definition of creativity from the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns,relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms,methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination. 

 It is all about the connections.

For example, I watched a video mentioned in Austin Kleon’s weekly newsletter. I talk about Kleon in this article HERE. The video is called "Legendary Filmmaker John Waters On the Audacity of Cy Twombly."  There are a few swear words.  But the important thing is the mental connections I made by watching this video.  John Waters, the filmmaker,  admires the modern artist Cy Twombly and talks about Twombly’s attitude of questioning the idea of rules and society’s ideas of perfection, and how that is supposed to look. Twombly did not feel the need to adhere to those rules. My curiosity caused me to watch this video and I instantly connected it to my feelings about my own art.  I make art my way. No rules except the ones I create. I can relate. John Waters is a fantastic story teller and if you are interested, the link is HERE. This connection strengthened my idea of my art and felt just like the "doing" part of creative flow even if it appeared passive as I watched the video.  I admit I watched it 3 times because it is just that good.

Phish LED screen light show from Wrigley Field June 2016. Source: article 

Another creative idea was inspired by a Phish concert held at Wrigley Field in Chicago over the weekend.  I saw a video of the last show. Wow. The colors and abstract designs on the LED screens on the stage were beyond interesting. I added the idea to my Designs and Color Ideas in Evernote.  I wrote an article about Evernote HERE.

By keeping up a stream of interesting input in my digital notebook, I provide fodder for this kind of creative flow thinking. My point is that thinking about these creative connections and what that could mean for a new art work is way more interesting than sitting there trying to do nothing so I can relax.  Thinking about my creative practice is enough to enter into that creative flow even while I am sitting eating breakfast, or waiting at a stoplight, or at the grocery store.

I want to be clear that I am not criticizing meditation. When you meditate you are not "doing nothing."  You are focusing on your breath, your visualization, etc. This is not doing nothing but an active process of being present.  I find meditation one of the best forms of relaxation. I regularly use the Headspace app for guided meditation.  You can sign up for a free 10 days 10 minutes preview of the app.  Well worth it.

So ponder or meditate or start creating something, but think again if you find yourself just sitting, forcing yourself to relax.

Start doing something or thinking about something that puts you into that creative flow state of mind and you may find it easier to relax. 

You get to choose how you spend your time. Choose wisely and make it meaningful.