We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having
slipped creative work in there between the domestic chores
and obligations. I’m not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for that.
I was currently revisiting the wonderful Julia Cameron bestseller, The Artist’s Way, when I came upon this quote. I admit, I’ve always been a bit of a self-congratulatory multi-tasker. I’ve juggled full-time work with full-time school, then three part-time teaching jobs with creative writing. I don’t mention family and home obligations, as that’s just a given. I never even thought about taking a moment of downtime to just be. In my mind, that would just be unproductive, wasted time, and I never had time to waste.
Now that I’m a little older and, I hope, a bit wiser, I have come to appreciate the value of downtime. Cameron says in her book an artist must have downtime to do nothing, but defending our right to such time takes courage. I recall the first time I decided to go to a writer’s retreat for a one-week stay. The guilt I felt about taking that time for my writing was almost physically painful. I felt selfish that I was doing something so outlandish for myself. I would bet if you are a mother, you are nodding your head. I am a mother, but my daughter is 35! It’s not like I needed to leave my kids with a sitter for a week! I’m still holding on to what I call my “mother guilt,” because when something goes wrong or doesn’t work out, it’s always our fault, right?
I think men might feel guilt as well, but for other reasons. Creative men often feel guilty to take time for their art, as they carry so many obligations on their shoulders. A week away, or even a weekend, would make them appear inconsiderate and selfish. Even irresponsible. It wouldn’t be nice.
What happens when we don’t take time for ourselves? We run the risk of becoming self-destructive. This may manifest in resentment, anger, even depression. The outcome of ignoring our needs isn’t pretty.
Consider if there really are obstacles in your path to taking downtime, or if the obstacles are self-imposed or in your head. I admit, mine were all in my head. I have a supportive husband who was happy I was finally taking time to devote to my passion of writing. He said I wasn’t pleasant to live with when I was ignoring my passion. I was the one making excuses. Now when I feel I need time away to write or just be, I take it. Sometimes it’s only a day, but even a day to yourself can be transforming.
Try to plan for a day of downtime this month. Look at your schedule, and pencil it in your appointment book. And don’t cancel it! Drive out to the country. Walk through a state park. Get a quiet hotel room. Write if you want, or just take notes or journal. Note how you feel.