Firestarter: Value your downtime

It wasn’t that long ago that I though of myself as a person who loved being out and about all the time. During college, I did spend a lot of time doing schoolwork and working on projects. But as soon as I had free time, I was biking to a friend’s house or lounging in someone’s elses dorm. When I had time apart from other people,  it was always at some freakishly early hour of the morning. My habit was to go to classes, then get a bit of work done so I could spend some evening time with my friends guilt-free. Then I would get home and do more homework and art, regularly until the sun came up.

Obviously, with a toddler and a regular job, my time frames have shifted a bit. And so had the amount of time I spend with other people. Between work and home, I am hardly ever really alone. I do like being around people, but I have really grown to value my time away. Everyone — whether you consider yourself creative or not — needs some down time to focus inwards on their own brains.

Spending time alone isn’t necessarily lonely…it’s a matter of maintaining some level of sanity and a good strong sense of self. You don’t need to sit in some special room and chant some crazy personal manifesto over and over. But doing something that gets you active and engaged in something you love doing. Everything from going for a run, reading a book or just cleaning up and reorganizing your personal space can all be good ways to get reconnected with yourself. All this quiet time alone isn’t just about some weirdo hippie mentality about “loving you for you”. In a hyper-stimulating world, it is a very real and important way to hold into world views and values that are important to you.

For me, time alone has led me to reassess many parts of my life, from work to friendships. When I took the time to really examine the things I was doing out of habit, I realized they were things I didn’t really enjoy any more. They were habits that didn’t reflect my new life views. And worst of all? Holding onto them meant holding myself back from reaching my real dreams. When you come to grips with what is important to you and what is just clutter, your whole life becomes more enriching. Not just for you, but for those close to you as well.

Besides maintaining a strong sense of self, time alone also gives you time to contemplate things you may not in other situations. If you have a project that has left you feeling stuck and uninspired, getting out for a bike ride and letting your mind wander may be just the right fix. I still find myself having to make a very conscious effort to create quiet time for my mind to be creative. But as always, I am growing and learning. I guess it pays to know that not every part of the creative process is actually making things.


  1. Its kind of paradoxal sometimes. Feeling better alone then with others. Special when we think of time value. Hard choices!

    1. It truly is! I have been doing a ton of reading the past few years on clearing clutter — it really borders on obsession. It’s really gotten me thinking more and more about mental clutter and how it affects creative processes.

  2. The really good thing on clearing clutter is the automatic reflection not just what surounds us physically but into yourselfs. As you say right…how it affects creative processes! Do you advice me any of your past readings?

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