Stop Creating

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Most people are their most creative when they're not creating.

Bob Dylan wrote the chorus for “Like a Rolling Story” after he quit music. Hemingway wouldn't allow himself to think about his novels when he wasn't writing because he wanted his subconscious to work on it without him. One screenwriter had been blocked for months, when he was woken up by the sound of an imaginary woman's voice. He started writing, and the screenplay ended up winning Academy Award. Twice in the last two years, I've gotten to a point in a project that I was so frustrated I wanted to quit writing. Both times, a break through came just a little while later while I wasn't working.

This stuff happens all the time. So much so, it leads me to the following conclusion:

One of the most important things you can do as a creative is to stop creating.

Once a week, I stop writing. I stop tweeting. I stop emailing. I stop working. I stop almost everything except eating (which I try to do as much of as possible), sleeping (ditto), reading, and spending time with people.

I rest, in other words.

And it makes me so much more creative.

Stop Creating

Photo by Nicole Renee

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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25 Comments

  1. Braden Talbot

    You don’t get the twitchy writing itch?

    Then again,  I lose sleep and miss out on the world around me when I’m constantly thinking about what to write next.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Good question, Braden. I definitely still get the twitch. And one day a week, I ignore it. It’s nice to remember the twitch doesn’t control me. Otherwise we’re just addicts looking for a fix. To be a responsible creator, you have to be above the need to create, I think.

      Reply
      • RD Meyer

        That’s key – control it instead of letting it control you.  This gives you room to breathe and patience to create rather than just spew.

        Reply
  2. Margaretperry839

    Wisdom, be Attentive.  The great creator rested and stopped creating on the seventh day.  I think that just might be the ticket. Unplugged Sundays.

    Reply
  3. Jeanette

    Wise words, and I find them to be true, my best ideas hit when I don’t try to find them. 🙂

    Also, I’ve just realized that creating something wordless is quite effective, just get out a pencil or paint and just do something unplanned and without reason. Gets you unplugged, gets you relaxed, and at the same time you’re kinda being creative, but in a purely right-brained way.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Nice, Jeanette. I like that idea.

      Reply
  4. Jack Dowden

    I sleep, read, go geocaching, play video games, watch television, etc. It helps relieve the pressure. You can’t be “on” all the time, and if you are, the stuff you create suffers for it.

    Good post. Simple, but it’s something I think a lot of people have a difficult time wrapping their head around.

    Reply
  5. Katie Axelson

    I’m still working on this… I can’t quite give a whole day up yet but I’ll give parts of Saturday and parts of Sunday. It probably evens out to a whole day. Is that cheating? 😉 Really, I need to find some non-writing-related hobbies.

    Katie

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      No, I don’t think that’s cheating. I stop from 6pm Saturday to 6pm Sunday because the Jewish day begins at sunset not sunrise. The day begins in darkness and ends in light. I think it’s beautiful.

      Reply
      • Katie Axelson

        That is beautiful. Mine’s Saturday and Sunday mornings. Although, I might as well just rest all of Saturday because I’m rarely writing-productive on Saturdays.

        Reply
  6. Beck Gambill

    This was my facebook blog page status yesterday “Feeling a bit frustrated. I’m stuck on what’s pretty much the last scene
    in my book. But it’s an important one and it just isn’t coming…”  I wondered if I should push through or just walk a way for a bit. I ended up having to walk away because everything I was writing was junk. Maybe I should take a long shower, hmmm….

    I appreciate the reminder to rest. Being a pastor’s family Sunday morning isn’t particularly restful, albeit meaningful, but we try to make the afternoon so. Lately we’ve been taking a long drive/walk by the beach, eating some seafood, and taking a nap together. It makes a huge difference in my heart!

    Reply
  7. Coladah

    If forced, man can make or do just about anything,
    But sometimes we hit a wall, the mind blank, the body numb.
    It is OK at those times to look away from our goals,
    Shake the head, clear the mind of debris, refocus on the track, resume refreshed. 
    We celebrate more when a win is unexpected.
    Creative art is purer when inspired.

    Reply
  8. Nancy

    It sounds like you’ve use finished reading the book, IMAGINE. I have, too. Loved it, especially the part about Bob Dylan. But my creative imagination is still on your last post about metaphors. I really want to create more of them, but if you can’t force the creativity, how do you make the metaphors come?

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Hey Nancy! I haven’t but I’ve read so many articles about it I feel like I have. Lehrer nailed it. There’s so many fascinating things I didn’t know about creativity.

      I think metaphors and simile are both about connection, creating strange, wonderful connections between things. E.g. Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Those kind of connections require an unfocused, relaxed, playful approach. If you’re too focused on one thing, you won’t be able to make the connection between one object and another. It’s really just about playing with meaning. You actually have to PLAY with it. If it’s not fun you’re doing it wrong.

      Reply
      • Nancy

        Thanks, Joe. Your explanation supports Lehrer’s theory. The irony and counter-intuition of metaphor making is: your book needs them bad so don’t try hard. I guess I’ll just relax and wait. 

        Reply
        • Joe Bunting

          That is kind of a strange lesson, isn’t it. Maybe the discipline side of it is giving yourself permission to play, or even practicing play. We are the write practice, after all.

          Reply
  9. Zantippy Skiphop

    This is so true! Sometimes my brain shuts itself down and I feel sooooo frustrated, but I’ve come to trust it because I know there will be a quantum burst of creativity once it opens up again. And rest, like you said, is important.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      I’m sorry. I didn’t read your comment. I was too entranced by your amazing name!

      Reply
  10. Leti Del Mar

    My favorite thing to do when I have moments of creative lethargy is to read.  I read something fun, cheesy and far from the genre I write.  It is a nice mental rest and often inspires something new. 

    Reply
  11. Charity Sapphire

    I totally agree! But to rest with intentionality is the only way to truly rest. If you gets your hands off the computer, but your mind still rolling in the creative muck, it won’t do as much as if you wrench your mind completely and totally off it as well.

    Reply
  12. Nikki Salisbury

    Excellent advice that can be applied to almost any aspect of life, not just writing.  Most times my best ideas, whether for writing, a problem I’m having a work, even what to make for dinner, come when I’ve stopped thinking so hard about the issue.

    Reply
  13. Lem

    What great advice. Taking a break has such magical qualities to it. 

    Reply
  14. PLR Article Sale

    I couldn’t agree more. I find when I take a break from writing, or just being creative, and come back to it later, the creativity juices flow like rivers.

    I’ve learned to walk away, or start being creative in totally different ways to remove creativity blocks. IE, if I am having trouble writing, I will draw, or do some graphic design, etc.

    Yet another great blog, thanks so much!

    http://www.plr-article-sale.com

    Reply
  15. Yvette Carol

    I finally finished working on my website (goes live in two days!) and have been trying to catch up with all the blogs I’d been ignoring. I always love your ‘rest’ posts anyway Joe, but this time you really got me.

    You see, putting my life’s work thus far onto a website was about triple the amount of work for me that it would have been for other people. Starting out when I did, before the ark, none of my earlier work was online. None of my black & white photography was digitised, (which I wanted to add for interest’s sake as well), nope not a stick of it. Did you know I started out illustrating my books also? Not sure if I’ve mentioned that. But at any rate I have books of paintings, and pencil sketches, photography portfolios, etc, all of which I wanted to showcase.

    So began my herculean task. I’ve been scanning, downloading, and cataloguing day and night for more than a month. The stories themselves, the longer ones at any rate, will need to be typed up at some point, but that can wait. Anyway, I did finally cross the finish line last night. The website is ready to go. But I absolutely wrecked myself doing it. I worked too hard, I didn’t sleep enough or eat enough. I’ve done something nasty to my shoulder and neck, muscle spasm I think.

    Although I feel contrite. Like, I should have known better and looked after myself better. I also feel victorious. I completed my task!! And now, I shall dutifully do as you do Joe, and take a day of rest. Thanks for reminding me 🙂

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Like sometimes requires that of us, Yvette. I know the feeling well. I think it’s fine to work hard, even to over work, as long as you take breaks afterward. The human body wasn’t made to take all that all the time. I’m glad you finished and that you get to rest now.

      Reply

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