Retreat and withdrawal is a necessary part of the creative process. Very few of us who work creatively are able to stay on top, creatively speaking, producing day in and day out. We need to let our minds rest and seek inspiration or new energy away from our usual creative field. The creative mind is indeed unlimited, but every so often we need to let it have a bit of rest. It doesn’t have to be more than just a walk in the park or enjoying a bit of social life in a café or listening to some beautiful music. Being social is fine, but in most cases it’s more beneficial if you allocate time to spend all by yourself. And even if you have to let go of a project you are in the middle of completing, it’s not wasting time to leave the work behind for a while. Instead it will become a time of incubation where new ideas suddenly will appear or new inspiration will trickle down upon you.

All artists need downtime – that is time to do nothing. There is nothing wrong with that. But we might even have to defend our right to this downtime towards family, friends or even colleagues if you work in a creative field. It might not always be easy; it may take courage, conviction and resiliency. Such time for ourselves – resting – will strike our family and friends as withdrawal. And it is. But for an artist withdrawal is necessary. Without it, the artist in us feels vexed, angry, out of sorts. Without this period of recharging, our artist becomes depleted. Downtime as in retreat and withdrawal is important for incubating new inspiration in us. If we let ourselves have some downtime on a regular basis, we will be able to stay more creative when we do creative work.

When was the last time you took some downtime alone – walking in the park, resting in the sunshine or did a longer hike or spend a day on the beach?

76 thoughts on “Downtime

  1. As a matter of fact Otto, I walked the park just today by myself, got some nice bird photos and flowers. Be well!!

  2. So true! Sometimes stepping back is the only way to move forward…I like to think of it as refilling the well. Enjoy your down time:)

  3. I likethe walks in nature but especially enjoyed time on the beach, digging my feet into the sand. have gone on silent retreats-love them. Iagree, it is absolutely essential.

  4. Your point’s well taken, and in my own life I’ve been able to incorporate such down-times into my regular pattern. Every week I spend at least one day somewhere in nature, and no matter how tired I am when I come home, I’m always refreshed.

  5. I spent all of Saturday this weekend reading a graphic novel at the ocean. When my family asked me to go to the bar, I turned them down. Despite the sunburn, it was a good idea!

  6. I’m lucky enough to get downtime, or solitude, regularly… fact daily for weeks on end (at various times) over recent years. I have the luxury of stopping, or starting, whatever I do (whenever I like). It’s almost too much freedom, if that were possible.

    But if I’m not creating something – anything – I get really down and almost depressed though. In my worst case scenario, I re-arrange the furniture! Seriously. I need to make or create something at least every week (if not every day) these days now I’m not working in such a restrictive non-creative job.

    I daresay if I had to be creative to make a living to support myself, that would be a different situation entirely 🙂

    As always, a great post and very thought-provoking, Otto.

    1. Thank you, Vicki. You are in a very fortunate situation in that you are in control of your own creativity. But I am also sure it can be challenging as you indicates. Nevertheless, even if you feel you have to be creative more or less every day, it’s still valuable for your creative mind to have some rest in between.

  7. Excellent advice. I find when I resist goofing off in one way or another my work suffers and I waste a lot of time fixing things that should’ve gone more smoothly.

  8. In truth to remove oneself from the creative process is not entirely possible. I’ve found that those creative juices continue in the subconscious, ruminating and, yes, creating. That is the beauty of the brain and mind, it is always working, but there certainly are ways to quiet their interaction and just be. To find a place of doing “nothing” is to do something.

    1. Yes, subconsciously our brains will always work – maybe with the exception of those who are very good at meditating. It’s still good to let the subconscious mind have some rest from our rational thinking and forced creative approach. But I totally agree with you.

  9. Otto, to have a break from everything and just “be” is essential to us all. Thanks for the reminder that we need to do it more often than we allow ourselves. I like being sociable, but I also relish my alone moments and switching off. I find that being surrounded be peaceful nature is a great way of recharging.

  10. Oddly enough, I do most of my photography by myself. I think it settles my mind and I get better shots when there is no one else tagging along with me. It lets me take the time I need to “get the shot.” Still fun to go with a group, but I tend to drift off. Nice blog Otto.

  11. The perfect reminder for summer….I notice that even though I’m not working for a living now, I still work and work some days. But I do get out by myself, alone, a lot, and I thrive on it.

  12. Absolutely true. Thank you, Otto. I need nature, green, green evrtywhere, birds singing … then I sleep.
    We say in french : ” recharger ses accus ” ( locution favorite de mon père -” ne pas prendre sur ses réserves “, également )

  13. Coincidentally I am, right this minute, camping by myself at a local state park. Told my husband, and my dog, that I needed some alone time. Went for a 4 mile walk in the woods this morning and now I’m at the library posting a blog about my Sunday evening photo shoot in a lavender field. Today has been so relaxing! Thank you for reminding us all that we need to take some time alone! And that it’s not weird to insist.

    1. Sounds like you have had a great Sunday replenishing your creative well. And thanks for sharing your experience. No. it should not be weird to insist on some time alone.

  14. So true Otto! For me, being outside in nature hiking is the best retreat ever for me. I just got back from hiking in Mont Blanc and it was a magical trip. I never write when I’m on a trip, only when I get back. I wish I could have stayed there longer after the hiking to look out at the mountains which inspire me so much, and write!

    1. I have not been to Mont Blanc, but in other areas of the Alps, not that far away. I have it the same way. Being up in the mountains is so mind relaxing and indeed magical.

  15. I agreed. I think time off is good for any professions. Certain companies, consider a violation when you try to connect back in when you are time off. It is better to have fresh / recharged mind (and body) later on.

    1. Indeed, time off for any profession is good. But also generally for anyone living an intense life. Unfortunately, not all companies understand the value of recharging one’s batteries.

  16. Thank you so much! I have needing more of this downtime lately and I sometimes struggle with feeling I should be able to do more. However I know that I must rest and refuel.

  17. Retirement has afforded me the ability to manage my time and I fiercely guard my downtime. I go in spurts of activity and interacting with a lot of people, and then I hole up in the beautiful silence of my home or with a solo hike somewhere. It’s a must for me.

  18. How funny that this should be the first post I return to after an unintentional months-long sabbatical, Otto. Thank you for being a voice of reason in a world that is always encouraging us to do more, more, MORE. As always, your observations are spot-on.

  19. Such a great post, Otto. I think I told you in my last comment that I’ve been in a kind of extended downtime. It was just what I needed, and I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things, with what feels like fresh eyes (and certainly a refreshed mind).

  20. Yes, we all need quality downtime to recharge and refresh – even those of us for whom being creative is a pleasurable pastime. The need must be even greater for the professional whose livelihood depends on their creativity.

    1. of course, for some downtime is being creative. But then it’s probably better to describe it as a break from whatever we do. Nevertheless, downtime is important for professionals and aficionados alike.

  21. it’s not laziness, although at times it feels as if
    we are non-productive, we are at heart with a
    natural scene; respite, taking time to consider
    trees for example.
    yup… on bare faced stone mountain was once
    what wonderful calmness we hear the breeze.

  22. Very true but I think many feel guilty in allowing themselves the time they need. I have seen the positive impact it has had on my husband when we stop our busy schedule and go walk on the beach first. It allows him to clear his mind and just not think. My favorite saying is “You need to disengage to reengage”.

  23. Yes, downtimes are good to refresh our brain. To recharge our creative batteries. I sometimes feel the need to clean my creative path form all the inputs we receive daily.
    Once a year (more or less) I try a photo fast, a week without looking at photo sites, forum or similar. Or I feel to be in an image and stimulus overdose which at the end blocks me.
    Thanks for this post, sorry to be always late in reading and commenting!

  24. I suspect the best method of downtime might depend on whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, but true enough, a break in the action is often just the thing to recharge the batteries.

  25. I am making a conscious effort to live a more well-rounded life and not make everything about my photography. It doesn’t make sense to keep on going if we have temporarily lost our zeal without a plan or something to inspire us.

  26. As always, all of your posts are inspiring and enlightening, and you project a very calming presence – a true teacher, coaxing the best from his grasshoppers!
    When I lived at Casa Loca, it was hard to pull myself away from watching the birds and river.. but I also loved where I worked/painted – downstairs with the Magic Carpet studio and its floor. If I’d not gone downstairs by mid morning, I’d say, “Time to go to work!’ – that simple, just like clocking in to a real job. And yes, after a five or ten or fifteen-minute warmup, I was in far right-brain mode and totally absorbed in my work.

    Downtown is important, however, and there are times to just let everything soak in, where any thing is possible for inspiration. I find that I need to first observe for a long time if I’m painting nature, and then it’s transferred to the paper…

    Keep coaching us, Coach! Thanks!

    1. Thank you for encouraging my writing, Lisa. Must be fantastic to live in a place where you first of all have a magic carpet studio and then can step outside whenever you want to and discover and observe the abundance of nature like in Ecuador.

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