I do a painting a day every January to set the tone for my year, establish strong creative habits, and to make sure I prioritize my art which, over the years, has become synonymous with prioritizing myself. But when February (finally) came, as it always does, life hit like a tornado of weird schedules and unforeseen obligations, and I went two whole weeks without ever opening up a tube of paint or holding a palette knife. I thought I might drift off into the ether where no art is ever made, no motivation ever found. I thought having been untethered from my daily ritual, I’d be lost forever.
And maybe I am, just a little.
But during the second half of the month, I found my way, almost sheepishly, back into the studio and slowly tried to get back to it even amid what still felt like chaos. And then a totally unencumbered afternoon approached me just when I’d started to think they no longer existed. I thought about it. I agonized a little. And then I met the afternoon not with a paintbrush but with a long and quite unnecessary nap.
During that nap, I dreamed of my paintings and saw exactly what they needed. Where I needed to go with them. I saw the lines and textures. I saw the way the colors needed to interact with one another.
Just like that my nap became some of my most important work.
Can I say that again maybe a little differently? My nap became some of the best work I’d ever done.
I know not all my decisions to rest instead of produce will be so on the nose. But the message was clearly received: Rest is not just some unfortunate part of the creative process but absolutely vital to its efficacy.
My oldest stepson is a brilliant musician– the kind of person who seems to be made from and of rhythm and sound, for whom it comes so naturally– he’s the unencumbered fish and the rest of us have tanks and gear just to last a few minutes underwater.
But he got injured, nerve damage likely from such a rigorous practice routine. And he put away his trombone for a while. A long while.
Yesterday, I heard him, via video, play again after such a long hiatus. And what can I tell you except that, even on my phone, it was deeply moving, beautiful, stirring? There’s no way I can be certain, but I do wonder if his long and no doubt frustrating, maybe agonizing, break added something ineffable to the music. Did it pour forth from a deeper well or was it like a delicate wine, aged and ready?
If music is an ocean, this land dwelling/non-swimmer can’t really answer one way or the other. But I have great hope that rest matters for all of us. That to fill every silence is to cease to have music, to paint every corner is to eradicate art.
I wrote the blessing below back in November, but it means more to me now as I’m learning from my dreams as much as my actions, my silence as much as my voice.
I’ll be the first to admit this is tricky, delicate. Where’s the line and what’s the balance? I’d love to know how and if you find both time to rest and time to hustle and how you know when each is called for? Do you feel guilt or shame for resting? What are we supposed to do with that? Looking forward, as always to your wisdom. If you’ve got a second or two let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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Written by Denise Hopkins
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