Here I am in the first week of a Creativity Challenge (of my own design) and I find myself sick for 4 days. So much for 31 consecutive days of creativity! I couldn’t even get out of bed.
So here are some lessons I’m learning about honoring your creative gift while your body is busy dis-honoring your every desire.
Embrace the Break
Don’t expect yourself to be creative. If this is difficult for you, then you might need to talk to someone about it. I heard a friend tell me, “You are giving your body the rest it needs and deserves.” That was the conversation I needed.
Creativity takes energy and focus, and when you have neither, there is no point in trying. You can just make things worse. I’m particularly bad at giving myself permission to be sick, but I find most of my friends are not. I’m driven, I suppose.
Also remember that just as athletes need recovery time, so creatives need time away from creating. Lean into the break so you benefit from the down time.
Keep a Notebook Handy
OK, so you get a break, but sometimes a good idea will emerge even when you’re sick, and you don’t want to lose it. Grab that capture machine and write the sucker down. Then go back to being sick.
Also, I find that I have a tendency to perseverate over an idea, listening to it echo around in my head for way too long. Writing it down is a way of convincing myself that I really did save it for later, and I can mentally move on to something else (like thinking about a warm beach or a mountain lake—anything else, really).
As hard as it is to concentrate and work, sick days can sometimes be good for listening. An audiobook, podcast, or music album may be just what the doctor ordered. Listening can allow your body to rest while your mind is taken on an interesting journey. If you are feeling up to it, you may even learn something.
While I was sick I found I could listen to a story in short bursts, maybe 20–30 minutes at a time between rest breaks. More than that and I would lose track of the story or fall asleep. A sleep timer on my audio app was perfect for managing this.
There is something that happened on the fourth day of being sick. I realized that I was OK with just being, without doing. There is more to being a Creative than producing work. I’m still trying to find language for this. If you have insight into this, please let me know.
There is nothing like the first day after sickness. I feel like I have a new body and mind. It’s exciting to do the simple things, like walk, put on normal clothes, and do errands. I find I have great clarity of thought and ability to concentrate. What a wonderful thing to be alive. I’m looking forward to a productive week, and I wonder if I would have this much energy and focus if I weren’t sick for those days. Probably not.
In Acts 3, Luke tells the story of Peter healing a lame beggar at the Temple. He had been lame since birth and was healed by the power of Peter’s words. His response: “walking, leaping and praising God.” There is nothing like the feeling of coming back from a sickness. I can’t imagine what he must have experienced. Maybe the next day he created something. Maybe the next 31 days?