Being creative is not easy.
Writing a blog or a story, composing music or sketching; these acts all require an intense amount of mental focus. Sometimes, technical limitations get in the way, and it’s very easy to lose “the flow” that we so crave when creating. Sometimes, it’s the ideas themselves that stop flowing. And sometimes, we are simply too mentally exhausted to continue.
I often find myself “taking a break” from my creative task, only to start browsing the Internet – Twitter, YouTube, etc. An important fact I haven’t considered in the past, is that consuming media drains my mental energy just as much as being creative – just in a different way. It may be the passive act of watching a movie or reading a book, or an active one like playing a video game. Still, these activities force the brain to process large amounts of information, whether we like it or not.
The thing is, the brain – as well as the body – needs time and space to recover. Overloading it with information fills the brain to the brim and it will find a way to shut itself down. In my experience, the only true mental break is to not think at all.
So, as an aspiring creator, I must consider my three options. Do I create, consume, or let my mind rest?
Finding the right balance takes self discipline. It’s about being aware of my mental capacity, and when it is at its limit. It’s knowing when to take a break from mental activity and when to let my brain process all it has taken in. It’s knowing when my brain produces its best work, when I need to get back to work, and learning how to get to that state every day.
When I get in my car after work, I stare at my phone’s App icons as they beg for my attention: Podcasts, Audible, Spotify – all tempting options. These days, I often find myself setting it back down as I drive in silence, letting my pent up thoughts scatter to the nether reaches of my brain-space.
So, fellow creators, don’t mistake distractions for real breaks. If you need to take a break, take a walk, or close your eyes to meditate. If you feel the need to watch your favorite TV show or read a book, make sure you manage your expectations and leave enough space for your brain to recover. We only have a limited capacity of mental power each day. Let’s manage it wisely.