In our busy-is-best society, slowing down can get a bad rap.
While slow movements — everything from food to even cities — are catching on, there’s still an underlying stigma surrounding slow. It’s wasted time, at best, slothful, at worst.
But slowing down is often a refuge ripe for creativity. When we unplug and play, ideas percolate and take shape.
There are many ways to slow down and spark creativity. We spoke with several artists and authors to get their thoughts on developing creativity by decelerating.
Shifting Your View of Time
For Christine Mason Miller, a mixed-media artist and author of Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World, slowing down is about revising her approach to time. After an exhausting move and without any major deadlines, she’s learning to experience her days differently.
“Instead of visualizing my day as very precise blocks of time that I have to utilize to the utmost degree in order to get everything on my to-do list crossed off, I am trying to move through my days with more fluidity, flexibility and spontaneity.”
(Here’s another unique way to perceive time.)
Moving Your Body
Slowing down doesn’t have to mean reducing your speed or halting movement. In fact, it could be a whirl of activity. Maya Stein, a poet and writing facilitator, spent last spring and summer biking 1,200 miles from Massachusetts to Wisconsin – typewriter in tow – collecting stories from strangers.
Why biking? As Stein writes on her website, “I loved the idea of slowing down enough to really see where I am, to go at a pace that allowed for a deeper engagement with my environment.”
Stein also craves movement in her everyday activities, especially after too much silence and solitude. Being active feeds her creativity. “Riding my bike always helps me tinker with ideas – something about that constancy of movement – going for long walks gifts me with a sense of wild abandon and surprise, and playing team sports helps me think about creativity as a conversation, which gives my projects a lot more texture and interaction.”
Giving Yourself Permission to Play
Slowing down also can mean letting yourself play, without goals or agendas. “After months of letting dust collect on all of my art supplies and other creative tools, I have just recently started to experiment again,” Mason Miller said. “…’Non-goal oriented’ artistic play is the best way for me to plant the seeds for whatever wants to burst forth next.”
Slowing down is essential for Catherine Just’s creative process. Just, an award-winning photographer and coach, also regularly plays with her art supplies. In fact, she and her son usually create one painting together. “It’s fun to let go and not be bogged down by some expectation of perfection.”
Taking A Photo Walk
With her iPhone in hand, Just slows downs by going on a photo walk. “I see a photo walk as being a type of meditation, especially when I give myself the adventure of looking for the way the light is falling on the subject matter around me.”
On her walks, Just also pays close attention to symbols, such as a heart-shaped rock or leaf, which remind her to “really open my eyes and see the love that is always available to me.”
In the wintertime, Just replaces photo walks with another ritual: She photographs a different object each day. Her description of this process illustrates beautifully how one small action can ignite the imagination.
I start to notice the light falling on that particular moment during my day. I stop planning the next to-do list, and start connecting with my eyes, heart and camera. This begins a deeper relationship with my everyday life. When I notice that these moments are actually so unique when I slow down to notice them, my entire life starts to feel like a work of art. The art making process is no longer just sanctioned for when I’m creating in my studio. It becomes a more living, breathing expression through out my day. This informs my studio work and vice versa.
Seeking Inspiration in Quiet Spaces
The library can serve as a sanctuary for slowing down, especially in our go-go-go society. When was the last time your library card was swiped? (Do you even have one?) Or you sat on a stool sandwiched between the stacks, engrossed in a read?
Just likes to peruse art books at the library. “I end up looking at some of the same books over and over again, but it really gets me in the zone to be creative and is a much slower more tactile process than just going online to look at images.”
Retreats offer the opportunity to ditch the distractions and to-do lists of everyday life and truly focus on the art of creating. Even when Just is leading a retreat, she’s able to work on her own projects, interruption-free. “I love getting away from my day-to-day life and go somewhere new.”
Slowing down can mean many things. Consider what slowing down looks like for you. And never limit yourself. Just doesn’t. “I don’t like to feel trapped by just one way of doing things. I like a lot of options. This freedom to choose in the moment helps me honor who I am, which in turn, brings out the best in my creativity.”