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Take a Break and Be Useless to be Creative

lazy lion by Tobias

“When we are being useless we are open to whatever comes our way.”

Do we need to be constantly busy and productive to be creative?

In an article , Maria Hill comments about some of the values of taking a break from being so busy all the time:

“Many people think of being busy as the same thing as being engaged. Often we are made to think that slowing down is a kind of disengagement, even an abandonment of our responsibilities.

“But engagement demands a lot of presence. Busyness does not. So when we are being very busy in many we ways we are increasing our disengagement with life. We stop asking important questions about what we are doing and why.

“When we are being useless we are open to whatever comes our way.”

From The Importance Of Uselessness – a post on her excellent HSP Health site: “Self Actualization For The Highly Sensitive Person.”

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Fiona AppleMusician Fiona Apple took six years off from performing before releasing her album “Extraordinary Machine.”

She says about taking such a long time away from being on stage:

“I realized that after six years of not doing this kind of stuff, it doesn’t define who I am, and I’ll be just fine without it… And I also think it is also getting a little bit more grown up.

“I’m more secure in who I am and I don’t need everybody’s approval as much (laughs)… As much!”

In another interview, she commented:

“I sat in my yard in Venice [Calif.] with a little knife and cut sticks. The stillness was exactly what I needed.”

From Fiona Apple on Taking a Break.

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One thing we may do more when “taking a break” is engage in mind wandering.

Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman refers to research arguing that “mind wandering serves multiple adaptive functions, such as future planning, sorting out current concerns, cycling through different information streams, distributed learning (versus cramming), and creativity.”

From my post: Scott Barry Kaufman On Shifting Awareness To Be More Creative.

Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of books including Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, which includes other material on creativity.

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The photo at top (lazy lion by Tobias) is also used in an article by creativity consultant Jeffrey Davis, who comments:

“If you’re middle-aged and blush because you seem to work more slowly, take heart. You’re likely working at far more effective, complex levels than your younger co-workers. It’s not only okay to take breaks during your work flow. It’s recommended if you want to perform at your best.”

He notes that “Madeline, a client and designer, sets her Enso meditation timer at 90 minutes when she sits down to work on a project. When the timer gongs, she steps away from her desk and usually steps outdoors for a cup of green tea.

“Smart move, according to psychobiologist Ernest Rossi… [who] champions the 20-Minute Break in his book of the same name for peak performance.”

From Best Rest Practices for Optimal Productivity and Creativity by Jeffrey Davis.

Davis is author of books including The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing.

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Do you take conscious breaks from your work? For many of us, it may be a challenge, but also worth the effort.


Take a Break and Be Useless to be Creative

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2015). Take a Break and Be Useless to be Creative. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 May 2015
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