How busyness crushes creativity and stillness cultivates it

The world of ‘crazy-busy’

whirlwind imagePeople pride themselves on being busy. At times it seems to be worn with a badge of honour with people uttering, ‘I am so busy!’ on a daily basis. It’s as if the need to constantly do has weaved its way quite comfortably into our social fabric. The more we do, the more productive and efficient we feel, and the more productive we feel, the busier we become. The reality is that being in a constant state of ‘busy’ is just a way to numb our feelings and ultimately means we are always left searching for the next thing. Brené Brown in her book Daring Greatly says it so well:

“‘Crazy-busy’ is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.”

I am acutely aware of my compulsion for ‘crazy-busy.’ I schedule in meetings, appointments, hobbies, work, writing, blogging, volunteering, and time with friends and soon I am like a compulsive hoarder with paper piled high and I’m having to inch my way through the tinniest of tunnels because everything is crammed in so tight. In here, there is no space to breathe and no space to create.

crumpled spaces

How busyness crushes creativity

My creative juices flow when I am relaxed and completely in the moment. For this to happen there needs to be space and, not surprisingly, being busy completely crushes creative inspiration. It pushes me back into that ramshackle room and I can’t find a way out. I yearn to explore the beauty of my surrounds. I long to feel the crispness of the air. Instead, I am suffocating beneath the weight of a thousand wants. There is no space for ideas to flow and no opportunity for the ‘creative pause’:

“… the time interval which begins when the thinker interrupts conscious preoccupation with an unsolved problem, and ends when the solution to the problem unexpectedly appears in consciousness.”

Scott Belsky talks about how humans are depriving themselves from the possibility of creative activity in a great article (you can read here):

“We are depriving ourselves of every opportunity for disconnection. And our imaginations suffer the consequences.”

The same thing can be said for busyness. It crushes any sense of creativity manifested within. When every inch of our lives is jam packed full of junk, the creative creature within remains hidden beneath the ruins. Waiting to be unleashed. Waiting to be nurtured. Waiting for us to slow down. Waiting for us to be still.


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Stillness and space are the antidotes to cultivating creativity

I have always equated slowing down with ‘doing nothing.’ That is, I have associated it with a do-nothing – a feckless or idle person who is a bit of a layabout. Yet, ‘doing nothing’ can be one of the most essential and self-preserving things we can do for ourselves. When I finally slowed down and allowed time for that creative pause I was struck by a thought that was much more conducive to growth and self-compassion. Doing nothing is simply relaxing and being still.

Several months ago Anthony, who has seen this theme of do-everything-until-I-can-only-do-nothing, play out over and over again, passed on a guided meditation which has been extremely helpful in learning to be still. It is called Stillness Meditation Therapy (SMT) and is guided by Pauline McKinnon (you can read more about Pauline and the Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre here). This form of meditation was developed by Dr Ainslie Meares to enable his patients to be relieved of anxiety and pain. When I talk to people about meditation, they often tell me that they are no good at meditation or that they can’t do meditation. SMT can be incredibly useful in this regard as it is thought to be an effortless experience where people return to their natural state of being. Unlike mindfulness, which is my usual form of meditation practice, SMT does not involve any focussing, observing of the thoughts, or anything at all:

“Physiologically based, the experience is one of global rest – meaning entire rest for body, mind and emotions.”

It was thought that within this state of rest, the mind’s own powers of healing can be activated. When listening to these meditations my tendency to move and be busy is thwarted as I am told over and over again that I am not required to do anything at all, just simply ‘to be.’ And so for now, I have listened to my body and begun scheduling space into my diary for relaxing and being still.

“If we are so fixated on ‘doing’ and ticking things off the never ending list we can’t allow ourselves the joy of simply being.”

– Tess Bartlett

7 comments on “How busyness crushes creativity and stillness cultivates it

  1. Great post. I hate it when I get too busy to do all the creative things I like to do. It’s so true that people seem to pride themselves on being super busy. I really try to make sure I have time alone each day to create. It’s essential!

    • Thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think it’s such a common thing for creative people, to be conflicted by working and being busy and not having time to do what we love. But when we slow down and make time we feel so much better for it. That’s great that you make time each day to create, shows that you’re looking after yourself and your passions 🙂

  2. Great post, and a wonderful reminder. I particularly liked how you pulled in quotes from different resources. I actually hate being busy because it takes away from my space to write and be quiet. Plus, I find running around exhausting so I try to limit “socializing” – probably almost too much 😛 But who wants to be too busy to breathe and think!

    • Thank you Lani, I’m a sucker for quotes and I agree, running around is very exhausting!! I think it’s so important to find that time for ourselves, makes for a healthier and happier life 🙂

  3. Pingback: Why working harder is not the answer (working smarter is) | Tess Bartlett AU

  4. Hi
    Ainslie Meares method is worth looking into. Stillness Meditation is really the mind’s own form of natural mental rest. As meditation goes it is intrinsically simpler and easier than “mindfulness” – if there is a problem it is that it is too easy. Tensing a muscles requires effort. Relaxing a muscles does not. It is effortless. So to is Stillness Meditation.

    • Hi Owen, I have come across Ainslie Meares method of stillness meditation and have found it hugely beneficial. Thank you very much for the recommendation and thoughtful comment. Tess

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