Congratulations! You have just started reading a blog post that encourages you to be idle in order to improve your creative work. So relax, put your feet up and read on to find out how being idle can be turned into the art of being idle.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America said, “It is the working man who is a happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.” This quote reflects a common misunderstanding about the benefits of being busy versus the benefits of being idle. It is important to clear this problem up for us creative people.
I am not denying working hard is needed to be able to achieve success in all fields of work. It clearly does take quite a lot of hard work to be successful in almost every domain. However, over time I have come to realise that a key part in becoming a successful artist is by not making yourself so busy that deep work becomes impossible.
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To resolve creative problems and break through with new ideas finding quality time in the studio is only part of a bigger picture. Of course, if you’re not in the studio making new work regularly then you need to make some adjustments to your working week. My main point here is that it is also it is important to have idle time in your week for reflection and contemplation. If you haven’t already got this highly valuable time in your week it is advisable to make some adjustments too.
The art of being idle explained
Creative ideas never come to me in a full and complete form. Often it feels like ideas are not moving forward and I often have to ponder on a problem to resolve a piece of work. A slow incubation of ideas forms in my subconscious. Sometimes I try to resolve a problem through preparation drawings. I might try sketching, using collage and playing with an open mind to help to move my ideas forward.
At one time I use to sit and procrastinate but over time I have realised that when this happens I need to move on to something else and keep on working. I don’t have time just to sit there waiting for an idea to resolve itself.
I have noticed my best ideas come when I am not directly thinking about the problem I am trying to resolve. In effect my best ideas come when I am not busy but when l am idle. I have discovered that creating a fine balance in my weekly schedule allows me time to be idle.
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My subconscious works overtime during a good nights sleep. Then in the following days and weeks when I am carrying out a mundane activity: possibly in the shower, walking, driving or doing some household tasks when I’m not focusing on anything, in particular, my mind wanders, my focus starts to drift and I start day-dreaming. It is in these moments that the answer pops into my head as if by magic an idea trickles through my subconscious as if from no-where.
I do realise however that this creative idleness would not work if l didn’t know my craft well. If l didn’t have the skills l have acquired through practice. If l didn’t have the openness of mind to work through solutions and ideas. Then l would stumble and fail to reach a solution about developing my idea into a finished piece of work.
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During the time I am idle, my unconscious mind is always working. There is no disconnecting my artistic thoughts and problem-solving. However, if I was busy all the time I believe the solutions wouldn’t surface in my mind. I have also discovered that once the problem is resolved in my brain I can’t retrace the steps that go into creating that solution.
In conclusion, the art of being idle feels like a mystery, like a journey into the unknown where the mind takes over and small thoughts and concepts bloom with a life of their own. I hope this small explanation into the art of being idle helps you to resolve your own ideas by relaxing and letting your subconscious mind take over.