When you are doing nothing, you are doing something

 preston reed

By Preston Reed, {grow} Community Member

At this time of year when we traditionally find some time to rest, I think it is important to reflect on the important work of doing nothing.

I am a professional musician and my life’s work depends on being creative.

When I first finish a challenging creative project, I feel a sense of relief and euphoria.

That feeling may last for a little while. But eventually it wears off … and I am left feeling exhausted.

The truth is, the project has caused me to put out an enormous amount of energy, and I now need a rest. When I am tired I lose (temporarily) my ability to create, innovate, or think fresh thoughts.

And that makes me feel lost.

Fatigue separates me from the heady feeling of power, confidence, and dynamism that was part of the creative mode I was in, and that I had grown attached to.

That electrifying sense of connection with what I was creating disappears and is replaced by a feeling of weakness, listlessness — sometimes actual depression.

I say things to myself like, “How could I ever have accomplished what I just accomplished and then feel as empty as I’m feeling now?”

I worked so hard, gave so much. Why don’t I feel happy now?

I rail against my tiredness, as if doing so will bring the magic back.

It doesn’t work of course. I just feel even more empty and exhausted.

Then at a certain point it all bottoms out and I recognise that I am in a state of withdrawal. I accept that I am tired, let go of trying to be dynamic and creative, adjust my mood and expectations and move on to other things.

After a lifetime of dealing with my creative cycles, I have learned that the magic always comes back.

An idea for new tune, an opportunity for a cool photograph, an insight for a blog post are all right around the corner.

The secret is to get away from the intense creative activity I’ve just spent so much time in, and do … well … nothing for a little while.

I ride my bike, take naps, stare into space, run household errands, fix things, read, cook, meditate, tidy my studio, take walks, catch up with friends, and generally do anything and everything that is not about the creative project I was just doing.

The Irish have a saying: “A change is as good as a rest.”

Actually, changing a pattern of behavior is a rest from that behavior and its associated activities.

Being creative is not just about the active, productive times. It’s about the silences, the gaps, the pauses between creating, when it can seem there’s nothing going on and time is being wasted.

It’s not.

When nothing is going on in your conscious mind, there’s always something going on in your unconscious mind — where the development of the next idea, the next composition, the next project, the next solution to a problem begins.

Creativity is not just about manifestation. It’s about gestation.

When you are doing “nothing”, you are doing something very important.

When the rechargeable battery in my electric beard-trimmer runs out, I plug it in. It takes about eight hours to fully recharge. During that time I don’t use it.

Next time you are feeling tired and disappointed in yourself, give yourself a break.

You are in the battery-charging part of a creative cycle. Use this time to take care of the rest of yourself.

You’ll be back soon.

preston reed 2Preston Reed is a guitarist and composer who invented the two handed integrated percussive style of playing in the 1980’s. He tours and performs globally and has influenced a generation of players. His other passions include photography, travel, food and single malt scotch. Follow him on YouTube.

Top photo credit Nick Neo.

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