The importance of wasting time, from the ArtAdvice archives

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 7.07.09 PM“Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” Albert Einstein

Originally posted 6 years ago, this article from the ArtAdvice Archives is particularly relevant today in light of the “Shelter at Home” guidelines.  This virus set the PAUSE button on the universe…but, for artists, it has been mostly business as usual.  I have loved watching all of the various ideations that artists have come up with to deal with the stay at home orders.  The only difference is now, through social media, the rest of the world has had the experience of taking a peek into the creative consciousness of so many artists.  Many people who have stiffled their creativity for years, are finding this time to finally let it out.  I have been thankful for the opportunity, and reminded of “The Importance of Wasting Time.”

It’s summer, time for relaxing by the pool, laying at the beach, taking a vacation from work, spending time outdoors, with family and friends, reading junky novels and just doing nothing, if you feel like it. The only problem is…if you are an artist, you rarely feel like it. One of the most misunderstood ideas about artists, is the notion that they can work whenever they want to. Catch an hour in the studio after the kids go to bed or while your partner is sleeping. But, those that are cursed/blessed with the DNA that makes you an artist, know better. It is precisely the quiet time in stillness, of nothingness that stimulates ideas…the middle of the night after wrestling with the unfinished part of that painting/poem/musical score. Or, the boredom that comes from just sitting in front of your painting/computer/blank sheet of paper, staring…waiting for an idea. The funny thing is, the ideas rarely come when you are just waiting for them. They intrude themselves into the idle moments of relaxation. Just when you thought you could finally escape, POW, it hits you. Without the boredom/relaxation/time wasted, creativity CAN NOT exist.

It’s important for artists to be able to communicate this critical part of the creative process to family and friends. Normal people believe that being creative is the ability to make art…WRONG. There is a huge difference between a person who can draw something to make it look real and an artist (who may not be able to draw a straight line). I am not saying that the person who can draw is NOT an artist, but I am saying that an artist is not necessarily a person who can draw. Experienced, mature artists are able to control how and when to tap into their creative juices,  much the way professional athletes and actors are able to go into “the zone”  when called upon.  Understanding this often, misunderstood, unidentified part of the creative process can make or break a marriage. It’s really only after 38 years of marriage to an artist that I am beginning to understand why we have never been able to vacation together, spend more than a few hours visiting with friends, or even “relaxing” together. As an artists’ partner you may at times feel lonely, rejected, abandoned, when in actuality you should feel lucky. It is precisely this time away from you when the artist is “working” that allows them to be the person you fell in love with in the first place. And it is precisely when the artist lacks this time, (whether consciously or unconsciously) that makes them unbearable to you and to themselves. Artists that surround themselves with busyness, either by choice or by necessity, are bound to experience the eruption eventually. It may takes years for an artist to acknowledge what they have been suppressing. They may or may not ever be in a life choice position when they can heed the call. But, hopefully, by talking about it, educating people about it and sharing this necessary part of the puzzle, we can heal ourselves and those closest to us. Share this with someone you love.