As an artist, my number one source of inspiration is sleep, preferably from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am. After that I need fruit and vegetables and a decent amount of water. Lastly, I require some time in the breezes, to move around outside in some capacity. If I stay up late, eat junk food and don’t get outside for fresh air, I’m no good to anyone. I’m convinced that the foundation of a creative life is comprised of the tips and tricks you would get from a grandparent.
But beyond maintaining a healthy lifestyle, creatives need down time. Legit down time, so ephemeral ideas and intangible concepts can gestate, roll around in our subconscious and form into something expressible. We need unstructured time to simply be ourselves with no agenda. We all have an incredibly unique perspective that we bring to the world, but that perspective is often warped and diminished by a continual need to be productive.
I’ve had the opportunity to test this theory. For a few consecutive years my sweetheart and I have been travelling to Nicaragua to spend a month in the spring and fall at Los Cardones, a remote off-the-grid surf eco lodge. Not a lot goes on there; hammocks sway in the wind and moderate surf rolls in unencumbered. When its dark, people go to bed and when its light people get up. There’s no wifi or tv. A cheeky sign reads, Wifi Password: talktosomeone, and I’ve seen random fidgety visitors try to type it into their phones.
When we first arrive we are the random fidgety visitors. But we are also tired from travelling and all the preparations required to take time off from the “real world.” We get to Los Cardones and then we sleep. We say hello, we surf and we sleep. A lot. Once we have slept for about a week we start to explore a little. Eventually, I begin writing in the early mornings and this is my cue that the authentic me is saying hello. I don’t plan to start writing, the urge arises and I have the time and the presence of mind to notice it and act upon it. I don’t have any art supplies outside of a few nice pens and a couple notebooks, so writing becomes my creative outlet. However, I don’t make a plan to write beyond bringing some supplies in case I should want to.
I’m also not writing anything of merit that I would ever want to share. The style is stream of consciousness and I simply ramble. Once in a while I am visited by song lyrics that present themselves as couplets and I write them in the margins of my notebook and sometimes they do become full blown songs. But for the most part, I am just writing whatever spontaneously arises in my mind. What amazes me about these diatribes is that all sorts of ideas are born that I later revisit and elaborate on either in my art practice or in other areas of my life. Ultimately, unstructured time in Nicaragua has been the impetus for some very big changes in my personal life and my work. And the process involves a whole lotta swinging in hammocks, bobbing around in the ocean staring at the horizon line and going to bed at 8:30.
Prolonged, unstructured time is a great gift. Try not to do. Try not to try. Simply being is a radical act that can ultimately transform your life in ways you could never have imagined. Trust the process of life, that everything is just as it should be and no amount of orchestrating on your part is necessary. In fact, you might be needlessly spinning your wheels and simultaneously missing it all with all your planning and doing. If there ever was a time to take a breath, it’s now. Breathe. Have a bath. Take a nap in the sun somewhere. Brew a cup of tea. Notice the wind in the trees.
I recently discovered a quote by Douglas Coupland describing the meaning of dimanchophobia as, “The fear of Sundays, not in a religious sense but rather, a condition that reflects fear of unstructured time.” Such a thing exists! Imagine how the dimanchophobics of the world must feel now that every day is like Sunday (cue Morrissey). If that feeling resonates during this rare and unprecedented global pause, I invite you to join me in my quest to simply be. Lounge! Linger! Lollygag! In the name of creativity, revolutionary ideas and evolving, be a time wasting layabout! For the greater good, do nothing and you may just find that it really is something.