MicroMusicMind: Creative Breaks

The idea of taking a creative break can be uncomfortable. Creative work – whether your main source of income, a passion project, or something in between – never stops. When you’re not actively creating, you’re envisioning, performing, or marketing. The worry is: You must keep up. You must keep getting your work out there. You can’t let your art fade into the background. I get that; but what about getting into creative ruts? Or creating dull, perfunctory art? Or becoming more focused on marketing than creating? That’s a worry, too. Don’t stop creating all together, but take a creative break.

Taking a break from actively working on or thinking about our creative projects can be very positive for us as artists. To optimize your creativity and motivation, take a few days or few weeks off from focusing on your creative projects from time to time.

Taking a break from creative projects can enhance creativity and motivation.

Taking a break from creative projects:

  • Replenishes our mental resources and restores our stamina.
  • Refreshes and recharges our creativity so that we can have new, more interesting ideas.
  • Lends objectivity to the quality of our creative projects. Taking some time away from projects can help us more clearly see what’s working and what’s not.
  • Frees up time for exposure to new ideas and inspirations. If we’re constantly working on and thinking about our creative projects, we might start to get tunnel-vision. Our art might become stale and tame.
  • Allows us to get bored. Being bored can motivate us to pursue a new goal, or reinvigorate our motivation to reach our current goals. There’s an evolutionary component to this: If we never got bored and experienced the discomfort of boredom, we’d never create anything.
  • Activates the default mode network (DMN) of our brains by allowing our minds to wander instead of staying rigidly focused on a specific goal. The DMN is responsible for problem-solving, thinking about the future, and reflecting on the past in novel, creative, uninhibited ways.
  • Reminds us why we love and need our creative projects. Don’t worry, if the project is one that invigorates you and adds value and meaning to your life, then you will want to get back to it and your motivation will be stronger than before.

How to Take A Break from Your Creative Work

  • Give yourself permission to take a break.
  • Figure out how deep of a break you can take. Can you pair your creative break with a vacation? Can you take time away from work? None of that really matters so long as you’re taking a break from actively working on and thinking about your creative projects.
  • Figure out how long of a break is realistic for you based on your schedule, upcoming events, and deadlines.
  • Let relevant people know that you’re taking a break so that they don’t inadvertently interrupt it.
  • Plan some relaxing, restorative, “non-creative project”-related experiences (they can be creative activities, but they shouldn’t deal directly with your creative project) like traveling, baking, hiking, reading, playing video games, etc. Hey, even the drudgery of housework or taking care of personal business can constitute a restorative break from your creative work.
  • Capture your creative ideas without focusing on them. During a creative break, you’re bound to come up with ideas (that’s the whole point!) and you may want to drop everything and pursue them immediately. To get the benefits of a creative break, take note of your idea but don’t pursue it. The break is working – ideas are flowing! Let it continue!
  • Take some time to truly do nothing. Mindlessly surfing the internet or scrolling through your Facebook feed gets you nothing, but it isn’t doing nothing. Doing nothing activates the DMN, and that’s good for creativity.
  • Don’t judge yourself for taking a break, relaxing, and doing nothing. It’s okay.
  • When it’s time, get back to business! You’ll be more motivated, energized, and passionate than before and your creative well will be fuller.

Read More about the Benefits of Creative Breaks

My sources:

How Taking Breaks Boosts Creativity

What Boredom Does to You: The Science of the Wandering Mind

The Science Behind Why Boredom is Better for Your Brain

Why Taking Writing Breaks is Important

5 Reasons You Should Take a Sabbatical from Creative Work

What do you think about creative breaks? Let us know! Learn about the MicroMusicMind series here. Be well!