Want to be a better creative? Build in some downtime.

By Justine Clay


You probably know (because I sang it from the rooftops!) that I had a baby recently.  After the novelty of returning to work subsided, it dawned on me that unless I developed superpowers or gave up sleep entirely, I was going to have to make some conscious choices about how I spent my time.

The business, the husband, the baby, the never-ending domestic ‘to do’ list – not to mention luxuries such as going to the hair dressers or taking a yoga class.  I wanted to do it all and I wanted to do it WELL.  That said, I wasn’t interested in become some harried mum/martyr….so what was I to do?

Clarity came in the form of a story that my husband emailed me about a classical Spanish guitarist named Paco Delucia.  Some years ago Paco was due to play Concierto de Aranjuez in Japan.  With one month to go, he still had not learned the very complicated piece so decided that the only solution was to take himself to Mexico for a month and hunker down. Here’s how he recounted that time:

“Those were some hard days, but I think back on them with pleasure. Every morning I would grab my speargun and I would walk along the beach for about 5km, to the little bay of X-Caret, which was still virgin back then. It was my beloved fisher’s spot. I would dive for a few hours until I would get the catch of the day, usually a red snapper. Back home I would clean it and fry it. A delicacy. After lunch, I would sit with my notes and my tape recorder until midnight.”

Grabbed a spear gun and fished for a few hours!!!!  What????  I was astonished that, even with his back against the wall, he had the calm confidence to walk 5 km, fish for a few hours, come back and cook his spoils and THEN start work.  

What an incredible example of knowing that in order to be his best he had to take of himself and make room for his creativity to blossom.  I could learn a thing or two from this guy.

So you know what I did? Instead of tackling the list of dreary errands I had planned, I grabbed my baby and went for a run in Central Park instead.  I returned to my work and life feeling refreshed and all the better for having done something for myself.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  What do you do to enhance your creativity?