Going outside your comfort zone to find Inspiration and the roots of New Creation
When your job is one that others often consider recreational in nature, it can be an interesting thing to ponder about the nature of downtime and recreation. Someone once stopped me and said, “You play music, travel, film videos, play with drum circles, all the things I wish I could do for fun, so what DO you do for fun?” I had to stop and really sit with that thought, and after some moments, I was able to share some of my recreational interests, which include going for long road trips as the passenger going to drive-in and vintage movie showings, challenging yoga classes, hanging out with friends who I do NOT collaborate with, and several other things that will bring about a moment, or moments of inspiration. Here are some suggestions:
1. You Gotta Keep Em Separated..
The important part here is to focus on what is separate from work, even if work is fun. Down time needs to be a chance to touch base with your other interests, which is inherently a source for inspiration often anyway. It’s what we feed our minds and the experiences that we create that can often find themselves as influences in the art that is created.
What is the nature of work / play separation?... NOT working while having your downtime. That can be as simple as shutting off the phone, or closing the laptop for a mere two hours, or while out enjoying an activity, doing the unthinkable and… leaving your business cards or promo materials at home. Radical, I know. But it’s a little way to begin creating space for new ideas.
For me, this practice is a balanced one. I personally won’t leave the house without business cards if I can help it, as I am always wanting to be prepared for a chance encounter or an opportunity that presents itself. I do have boundaries in place, however. If I go for a bike ride, for example, in one of my favorite towns, New Hope, Pennsylvania, I will have promo cards on me, but I won’t make it a point to stop and give one to everyone I meet, like I usually would if working. I won’t leave cards at every turn in my journey, but instead I will give 99% of my focus to actually riding my bike.
2. Isolation .. It’s Not Always A Bad Thing..
I also find that cutting off interaction with others helps, so if I’m taking some time to myself I will MOST often have my headphones in and I’ll be listening to music that is NOT my own. That is an interesting thing for me, as I produce so much music that I am always checking in with, editing, or analyzing, that I often almost exclusively listen to my own creations. So to combat that and to unplug from my own work, I listen to anything else that I like. Often that is a mix of rock, metal, world, and pop music. The trick is to practice imposed (be it temporary...or permanent if that’s what’s desired) isolation. Sometimes the only way to find yourself is to be by yourself, apart from the company of others or the insatiable draw to be in community or tribe settings. There is nothing wrong with being around others, but at times, a little self reflection is a good thing.
When was the last time you went and did something FOR YOU, BY YOURSELF?.. For me, it was a recent trip to see Conan The Barbarian (one of my favorite 80’s action movies), at a vintage theater in Pennsylvania. And I had a great time!! Turns out I can very easily enjoy my own company. Give it a try sometime.
3. Inspiration and the roots of new creation
Inspiration is a tricky thing. It doesn’t always come when it’s called for. Other times, it shows up when you don’t have a pen and have to repeat a lyric or idea 100 times to try to capture it. Sometimes it comes in the form of something very uninspiring, and somewhere along the way it turns into the best idea of your life. The secret is to be as open as possible to intuitively sensing the presence of an idea.
Down time is a major component here. New ideas must be allowed in. Tension must be released, even if the nature of the tension is beneficial to the goals in mind and satisfying. It’s all about that release, and the space that is opened up. This space can open through exploring the random experiences that pop up; when friends invite you out to see a band that plays a style of music you would more often than not hate, or trying that class you got a free coupon for, or even walking into that store you have passed a million times. It’s all about the fresh perspectives and new experiences.
To have a garden of variety, loaded with all manner of flowers and fruits, you must plant a multitude of seeds, and take the time to explore the way they all work together as a complete ecosystem. Not all plants are complimentary, though they may be necessary to have a fully functioning garden. That’s where things like going outside the comfort zone comes in handy. It’s likely that if something is not a preference then one might not have a whole lot of experience with it, or knowledge of such things, meaning that there is a whole lot that can be observed, absorbed, or applied in the right circumstances. You never know.
So pay attention, but while also maintaining the window of precious downtime that has you in these places, doing these things in the first place. Paying attention is not really the same as working an idea. Remember the things that jump out at you, and find their use later on after completing your experience, whatever that may be.
Down time is crucial, plain and simple. Even in alchemy, there is a phase called separation, where the matter breaks apart and reveals new characteristics and qualities that can be utilized in new and exciting ways. The important thing though is to allow time for such a process to occur.
More importantly, while it’s good to be able to be a driven, creative person, nurturing a life outside the walls of creation is incredibly valuable for maintaining a sense of personal balance.
Years ago, when I was SO intensely focused on my work with my band, and with all of my projects, I learned this lesson of balance the hard way. It all came crashing down, likely as a result of burning out, and I found myself without a sense of my own self; apart from the life with my band and without friends, as I had neglected my social life long enough that people moved on. This was a tough pill to swallow, and so I learned my lesson and now honor the time when I am not working as sacred, and off-limits from my urge to produce.
Hopefully this blog has helped you, dear reader, to look at your own situations and determine if some down time is likely to aid you in your quest to be a complete person.