On the Creative Self-Publishing Podcast, we'll talk about the seven kinds of creative rest to improve your work. Today's episode is the third of three parts in an integrative approach to creativity. In past episodes, we've discussed creative work and creative fun. Today, we'll discuss creative rest. But this is more than just taking a snooze to recharge. There are many different ways to rest, depending on your own needs. Helping to sort it out for us are ALLi Director Orna Ross and ALLi News and Podcast Producer Howard Lovy.
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Listen to the Podcast: The Seven Kinds of Creative RestOn the Creative Self-Publishing Podcast, @OrnaRoss and @howard_lovy discuss the seven kinds of creative rest to improve your work. This is more than just taking a snooze to recharge. There are many different ways to rest. Click To Tweet
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- Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, by Saundra Dalton-Smith
- Radical Rest: Getting More Done by Doing Less, by Richard Lister
- Creative Planning for Profit (Facebook Group)
- Creative Self-Publishing: ALLi’s Guide to Independent Publishing for Authors and Poets, by Orna Ross. (ALLi members get a free ebook edition)
- Orna Ross's Patreon page.
About the Hosts
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Read the Transcripts: Seven Kinds of Creative Rest
Howard Lovy: Today's episode is the third of three parts in an integrative approach to creativity. In past episodes, we've discussed creative work and creative fun. Today we'll discuss creative rest, and here to help us learn to rest is ALLi Director, Orna Ross.
Hello, Orna. How are you?
Orna Ross: Hi, Howard. I'm very well, thank you, and you?
Howard Lovy: Oh, I'm okay. I'm recovering from a cold right now, so I could use some kind of rest, whether it's creative rest, well, maybe you can help me learn how to do that.
Orna Ross: Well, we'll talk about rest, but it'll be up to you to actually take the rest you need.
Howard Lovy: Gotcha.
Orna Ross: Which is very often the problem with indie authors, they know what to do, but we don't always give ourselves what we most need.
Howard Lovy: Well, it's hard to do nothing, and I don't know if rest means doing nothing, but maybe you can explain to us what you mean by rest.
Orna Ross: Yeah, exactly. We talked about work, and we talked about play over the last two episodes, and they're all words that can mean different things to different people. So, what I'm going to be talking about here today is a theory, I suppose, that there are seven different types of rest. Physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, sensory, and what she calls creative.
But what I'm going to be really talking about is creative rest. So, all of these kinds of rests from a creative perspective, because while I think this is a very useful framework for thinking about what sort of depletion you might actually be undergoing, I think it's really good from that point of view, and what kind of rest you actually need. I don't think she quite gets creative work. So, the woman who wrote the book, she's worked in the health profession, she's been a doctor, and she wound up completely emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, in every way burnt out.
Howard Lovy: Who are you referring to?
Orna Ross: It's the author of the book, says I, flipping up here. Saundra, it's an unusual spelling. S A U N D R A, Saundra Dalton-Smith, and her book is The Seven Types of Rest and we'll put the links to this and to another book about radical rest also in the show notes.
And Dalton-Smith does a very useful quiz, whereby you can identify which kind of rest, and particularly this episode is for those who are feeling depleted, I guess, but it's not just about that. I think that's the important thing to say. As creatives, it's not about waiting until you're completely exhausted and working out what kind of rest you need. As creatives, it's about understanding that rest, intentional rest, is part of our process and that we work with concentrated attention, and then we rest, maybe with concentrated attention too, but certainly we rest intentionally, meaningfully. We know that we need rest as much as we need work, and last week, as much as we need play.
Howard Lovy: We incorporate this into our daily or our weekly routine. We don't just wait until we just can't work anymore.
Orna Ross: Exactly right. So, we're looking for, I mean, nature has insisted upon us resting, luckily, because there are some of us who would work 24-7 if we could. Every night we are primed by our bodies, our anatomy and physiology, to sleep. But as we'll discuss now in a few moments, our bodies can't always get the rest they need because of our minds, and we who write and publish, we've got active minds, we have to have, and so that kind of rest is very important for us.
Howard Lovy: Okay. Well, wonderful, I'm all ears. Tell us what the different kinds of creative rests are and how we get started.
Orna Ross: Okay. So, as I just referred to, there is the most obvious, which is physical rest, and sleep is our most obvious way in which we rest physically, but physical rest also includes things like stretching, yoga, anything that gives us a sense of down, so mindful movement of any kind, what some people call effortless exercise. So, you're moving the muscles of your body, but you're not moving them with any sort of force or intensity, you're stretching out, you're loosening. Getting a massage is another way of resting the body.
So, those kinds of obvious things, and I think something that's really worth pointing out for writers who sit a lot is that the ergonomics of where you actually do your work is very important for you in particular, and that is an aspect of your physical rest. The chairs, and there may be more than one, I certainly have a standing desk and a sitting desk. I have a variety of different kinds of sitting arrangements. So, variety is really great for the body.
So, sitting on an office chair one minute, a stool later, standing up, those round balls, the name of it escapes me right in this moment, but you know the ones I mean that sit and actually hold your muscles in different ways. The point is not what you do, so much as that you do lots of different things. What's really bad for your body in terms of rest is holding yourself in one position all day long.
Howard Lovy: All right, so already, I'm doing it wrong. So, I only have one office chair, and those yoga balls, it wouldn't be very pretty for me to sit on those, but I see what you mean, yes. I think I need to find a variety of ways to sit down and work or stand up and work.
Orna Ross: Yeah, or stand up and work, the standing desks have become very popular in recent years for that reason because we've come to realize just how not good for us sitting and sitting is. There is that whole thing going around the health community that sitting is the new smoking, and it is interesting. We need to sit to work, or certainly we need to hold a concentrated position for some time. Our bodies need to be still so that our minds can activate, and so it's important to think about that aspect of it.
But then just that physical switch off, so moving, a slow walk might be the kind of rest you need when you're the kind of person who sits all day. So, bearing in mind that physical rest doesn't just mean lying down and zonking out, or sitting back in your chair. It means giving your body whatever it needs in terms of physical rest, and that might be contrast.
So, that's physical, which is pretty obvious, and the other one that's very kind of obvious is mental rest. So, you know that you haven't got enough mental rest, let's put it that way, if you find yourself lying down at night and your mind is so busy that you can't actually quieten your brain.
Again, because we work with concepts, and ideas, and our imaginations, this can be an occupational hazard for indie authors. So, we need actual practices that allow our minds to rest, because it is actually in the moments of the still mind a creative flow comes through. So, everybody's familiar with that, everybody who works creatively is familiar with that dynamic of, you know, you work hard, you're thinking about the thing, and then you stop thinking about it and you go off and you rest, or take a shower, take a bath, lie down, falling into sleep, coming out of sleep. All of these moments are very productive for ideas.
It's in the still mind that ideas rise. So, having a practice that stills your mind is actually really useful. So, there's deep breath, following the breath in a traditional mindfulness fashion, is one way of stopping the mind. So, you bring your attention, rather than it following your thoughts around the place, you bring your attention to your breath and follow your breath all the way in and all the way out, and it doesn't matter that your mind will bounce off and go somewhere else, you bring it back. That's classic mindfulness practice, and there are all sorts of different ways to do this, but the point again is it's really important to do it regularly in the day and set aside time in your week as well for intentional mental rest.
Howard Lovy: Yeah, I know there are times when I'm staring at a paragraph, and nothing is happening anymore. I've stared at it too long and I need to do something else to take my mind off it, and five minutes later I can get back to it with fresh eyes.
Orna Ross: Yes, there is research showing that people with very busy minds are showing symptoms that are equivalent to dementia. So, for example, things that happen tend to happen only in older life, where you walk into a room and you cannot remember what you've come in for, and no matter what you do, you're trying to draw it up and it won't come back. That's not something that typically happens in a younger brain, but in an over busy brain, it does happen. So yeah, it's as I said, an occupational hazard for authors because our work requires our brains to have a lot of input, in terms of reading and thinking and cogitating, and then obviously doing our writing, which uses a lot of mental energy. So, we need these practices that actually intentionally give us mental rest.
Howard Lovy: Yeah, it involves making a lot of different connections between what you read and what you're thinking and your opinions about things, and it all comes together in your writing, and sometimes you just need to cut off the flow, and rest.
Orna Ross: Exactly, and part of this, I think, is about trusting what I call the back brain, the subconscious, and understanding that a lot of the work actually happens when we are off duty, and the most important work happens when we're not. So, we do need to do the front mind thinking, but then we need to rest it so that the subconscious mind can do its work well, and it can't do its work well if the front mind is constantly bouncing about the place.
Howard Lovy: So, mental rest, that could be something that could take a few minutes, or it could take all day. What kinds of things are we talking about?
Orna Ross: It can be as short as that breath, one single breath can actually be immensely restful, but the optimal work time is about 90-minutes for concentrated mental work, and research shows that after 90 minutes you are into diminishing returns in a big way, very quickly.
So, if you been working in a concentrated way for more than 90 minutes, it's time to stop. Get up, walk away, do something else, do something restful, ideally. Not jump on your phone and give yourself more mental input, but actually get some fresh air, get some physical rest that we were talking about as the first type of rest, or some other type of rest.
So, being intentional about it and realizing that taking this “break” from your work is actually your work, and I think that's the most important thing to get across about rest, that it is fundamentally part of the process. I know I keep banging that drum, but I do because I know that a lot of authors find it difficult to do that, to just step away.
Howard Lovy: Oh, definitely.
Orna Ross: Yeah. So, the next one then is social rest, and social rest is the kind of rest we get when we are with people who make us feel restful, and people who nurture us. So, this is why coaches have coaches and therapists have therapists. They spend a lot of time giving out to their clients, so they need to have somebody that they actually connect with who gives back to them, and it's the same for authors in a different way.
The act of writing and publishing, both of these are, you know, we give out a lot of energy and so we need to actually take some energy back in. So, it's really important who we actually mix with in relation to that. So, you have your fun friends for fun, of course, and you have your people you know, for various different things, but there are two dimensions to this. One is having some people that do actually nurture you.
So, if you are the type of person, and again, a lot of authors are because they tend to be giving by nature. If you're the kind of person that everybody's always asking you for advice or for wisdom, or for whatever your specialty is, you know, if you're constantly giving out, then you are going to find yourself socially depleted. You need to find people who give back to you and you'll know that you've found people like this because you will feel, oh, you know, just kind of relax in their presence, and they make you feel restful. That's one aspect of social rest.
Another is our loved ones, the partner, the spouse, the children, the friends, explaining to them how they can help and nurture your work is an important thing that a lot of authors don't get round to. So, there can be sometimes a resentment that builds up because they don't understand, but sometimes it's down to us not having done the work of working out exactly what we do need and don't need, you know, the parts of our relationship where we're happy to give, and the parts where we need to receive, and what we need in order to do our work and do it well. We may need certain times of the day where we're not to be interrupted, and that can be very difficult for some people, some partners, to hear, that you actually want or need that time and space. But taking the time to communicate fully around that and explaining that the, I suppose pressures is not quite the right word, but explaining the demands of the job. Because writing books is demanding, publishing books is demanding, and when you put the two together, it's exponentially demanding. So, not in a complaining way, not in a sounding off way, not in a moaning way, and certainly not in a blaming way, but in a way that actually gets you the support you need so that you can lie back into that support and enjoy resting with your spouse and your family, and so on. And really important to set that time aside so that when you're with them, it is quality time. We can't help our books rising up in the back of our minds when somebody's talking to us.
Howard Lovy: Gaze off into space, what are you thinking about?
Orna Ross: Yes. How much I love you, darling. Exactly.
Howard Lovy: I'm unfortunate in that my wife is also a writer, so, we understand the experience. My children, however, when they need things, hey need things now. It's difficult.
Orna Ross: Yes, absolutely. Kids are different, and at different stages of their lives are different, but you guys sound like you've got it worked out really well, but in other cases, two writers together is a nightmare because nobody's getting the rest full-time that they need. So, it needs to be worked out between you, and again, communication is central to that.
If you are feeling resentful, if you're feeling really drained, if you're feeling like all your energy is being dragged out of you. If you're find yourself thinking things like, I can't get a moment just for me, you know, that sort of desperation, I will scream if anybody else asks me for something, then you're in need of social rest.
I think another thing, so just before I leave social rest, there's a bit of, sort of, belonging is important here in this kind of rest and in the next kind of rest, a sense of belonging in the moment that you're in with the people that you're with is key in social rest, and it's really key in the fourth kind of rest, which is spiritual rest.
So, we all have different belief systems and that's not about this, it's not about anything to do with that at all, but it's to do with the rest you get from knowing your sense of purpose, that you belong, that work is contributing in some way to the greater good, that you are giving out something that has value, and spiritual deficit, rest deficit, around our work becomes visible when you start thinking, oh, it doesn't matter if I do this or if I don't do that. What use is it to anyone anyway? It doesn't make any difference if I do it well or I don't, you start doing things just for the paycheck, and you end up in a place where what was magic, and really sustaining, and your most wonderful thing to do, stops feeling that way you start feeling burnt out.
So, this kind of rest within work, within writing, within publishing, is very much about connecting to meaning, and bringing money and meaning up often on the publishing side, bringing money and meaning together in a way.
If you're doing writing that has become a chore, that has become rote, where you're just pumping out another something that was very like the last thing you did, this is how you know you're experiencing this kind of spiritual rest deficit. So, we need to feel we're contributing, and you need to do whatever you need to find that place where you can rest into that.
Howard Lovy: Right. Think about the reason you began writing in the first place, and what the purpose is for yourself, or for others, or for a community.
Orna Ross: Yes, and particularly yourself. If you get it right for you, then you find that it comes right for others. So, a technique here is, we spoke about it last time, the create date where you go off and you do something that is intensely nurturing for you, particularly if this crosses over with the physical and mental rest that we were talking about earlier then that can become a very nurturing, very sustaining rest period for you each week, which reconnects you with your spiritual reasons.
So, we talk about the creative spirit for a reason, and that creative spirit is in every single human being, but a whole load of debris if you like, mental, and social, and emotional debris can come between you and your actual creative spirit. So, spiritual rest is about giving the spirit what it needs to come to the surface again, and it's very personal but you feel it, you know it when it's happening because everything makes sense, and you know it when it's not there because nothing makes sense.
So, taking that time, an hour or so a week, two hours a week, where you just are on your own, go somewhere new, go somewhere different, take the rest you need and make sure that you reconnect in that way. So, that is spiritual rest.
Number five then is sensory. Sensory rest. And this is something that's becoming more and more difficult to get particularly in our cities. So, sensory, it's just the senses, the five senses in particular. The five physical senses. Suffering from overload, and especially sight and sounds.
So, it might be phones going off, bright lights, the computer, noise, the kids at home, notifications coming in, visual backgrounds, doing Zoom calls with lots of people on them, whatever it might be. Quite easily on social media you find yourself in sensory overload.
Howard Lovy: That's not just a problem in the cities, that's everywhere. I live in the middle of a rural part of Michigan, and I have sensory overload all the time with all my notifications, social media things popping up that demand my attention.
Orna Ross: Absolutely. I suppose it's compounded though, if when you step outside your door it's bright lights, loads of noise, ambulance sirens. So, perhaps, I don't know, when you step out in your rural area there in Michigan, you're going down to the lake and having a quiet walk or whatever. I suppose this is the point, it's to find wherever you live and however you live, it's to understand that sensory overload will make you irritated, will make you agitated, and if it's severe, it will bring you right into rage.
So, it's understanding if your rest deficit is in this sensory area, is something that sometimes we need to look at to even recognize it, because we don't realize it's that, for example, there's been noise in our ears all day long or whatever it might be.
Yeah, no, my wife makes me take a walk in the woods with our dog just about every day and forbids me from checking my phone, which actually helps. I'm reluctant, but it helps.
Yeah, absolutely, because of course the people who are in our phones know exactly how to get our attention, and keep our attention, and keep us there, and they're far more clever around this whole thing than we are,
So, yes. We all need Heidi in our lives who will do those things for us. But if we haven't got Heidi, we've got to be our own Heidi and do it for ourselves.
So, a sign for people who are listening to this and may not know whether, do I or don't I suffer from sensory overload. If you find you're good and calm and peaceful at the beginning of the day, but by the end of the day, you're kind of, why am I feeling anxious, agitated, irritable, nothing happened, you know, I actually had a good day. Why am I feeling this way? It's very likely to be a lack of sensory rest.
So, emotional rest, and here in these last two aspects of rest is where I think we part slightly with the author of the book. As creatives we experience it a little bit differently. So, she talks a lot about emotional rest, and this is a very real dynamic and can happen perhaps to us in the public part of our lives, the publishing part of our lives, which is when the rest you kind of feel when you're able to be real and be authentic and share your feelings, and a lot of the time we feel we can't do that. So as writers, of course, it's all about that. It's all about getting in touch with what we really, feel really think, and putting it down there at least, and then whether we decide to put it out or not, or put it out in a certain way is the publisher's choice. So, there's quite a bit of emotional labour going on there and conflicting moves.
So, in other jobs, perhaps, and perhaps some of us run teams where we're managing people and we have to not say exactly what we feel, and we're working things out, or we're maybe working for other people and containing our feelings.
So, that's sort of a containment of the suppression, really, suppression and repression of our true feelings, our true authentic self, can happen to the indie author, in a way that it doesn't quite happen for writers who maybe have third party publishers and they just do the emoting and then they can hand it over. Maybe it's easier. I don't know. Maybe they have the experience I had when I had a third-party publisher, and there was a lot of things you couldn't say, couldn't do, and couldn't make happen. So, whatever way it's going.
Then there is, of course, over emoting and oversharing, and being on social media and caught up in that exposure and that need to go further and put yourself out there more. All that kind of thing can be very emotionally draining for a writer.
Howard Lovy: Today, as we record this, the US is under is going through a big midterm election, and so there's a lot of emoting going on, and a lot of unrest, and a lot of emotional energy, you know, people who are involved in this, and a lot of writers too.
Orna Ross: Absolutely. So, Twitter today, in those corners of Twitter and other social media, is not going to be a restful place to be, is it? And we can get drawn into this. Particularly as writers, if we spend a lot of time thinking about some of those things, and then writing, you know, writing our tweets, writing our thing, having our arguments, laying down what we think, and you know, all of that. Yes, there is a time for that. I'm not saying that shouldn't be done at any time at all, but what I'm saying is, we will need emotional rest, and that is emotional energy that hasn't gone into your actual book.
So, getting that balance right is really important, and knowing when you need to rest because it's the very time when you feel you're completely carried away with what's going on, and your feelings are running high and you really need to express yourself, the ability and the opportunity to express, of course is really important, and I am definitely not one of these people who think social media is evil. It's just a platform for expression, and how can a writer think that's a problem? It's a good thing, but it has to be managed and you have to make sure that you get the rest you need, and if you're getting carried away, taking the rest.
So, you definitely see more people on all the social media saying, you know, I'm taking some time out. I'm going on a digifast, I'm going offline for a while. I won't be around for a bit. That kind of stuff is becoming more common, and people are understanding their need for emotional rest. But of course, it's not just on social media, there are loads of ways in which we might be carrying emotional blocks, emotional energy that's stuck, emotional labours that have absolutely worn us out. So, getting the emotional rest is really important for us.
Creative rest then is the final one that she talks about, and creative rest is when you come into the presence of beauty as you define it. So, it might be you going for your walk by the lake, or the mountains, the trees. For me, it's the sea. I live here by the sea, well, between the sea and some high ground, and it's really intensely restful for me to get out there and walk in that.
But also, of course, art, music, all the arts are aspects of creative rest and we can be incredibly sustained by the right movie, the right play, the right piece of music, dance, whatever it might be, whatever your thing is, and depriving ourselves of that is something that we can find we do, again, citing business, and we can have a hard time giving ourselves these things that nurture us. So, searching that out, understanding that, and in that then flow again is encouraged and fostered, and so our creativity doesn't feel like our own creativity. It doesn't feel like we're scraping it up. It's flowing and it's coming more easily because we've given ourselves that sustenance.
Howard Lovy: Right. It's just a matter of first giving yourself permission to take the creative rest.
Orna Ross: Yeah, and you'll often find that you have to really, you know, it's not even giving yourself permission. It'd be great if you just gave yourself permission and you just did it. You have to give yourself a right shove. It can be it can be really hard for us to give ourselves this, particularly when the mind is really busy.
So, yeah, these are the seven types and it's worth thinking about which one you might have the deficit in, as you are listening. And, as I said Saundra Dalton-Smith, the author of the book that the seven concepts are taken from, she has an online quiz that you can do.
You ideally need to start with one of them. So, you might look at it and say, I'm not feeling good in any of these areas. I'm actually feeling depleted all over, and that was her experience, as I said, as a physician. She speaks in the book about how people are incredibly drained within the health professions and how doctor and nurse suicide rates are through the roof. We're talking about real rest deficit, and she got out, and when she got out, she found that she was completely drained on every front, on all seven fronts. But she began with emotional, because that was the one, obviously in the health professions, you're carrying a lot of emotional labour. She began there.
The point is that you need to begin with one, and one contributes to the other. So, we are not machines that are divided into, here is the mental, and there is the physical, and over there is the emotional. It's all integrated and working on one benefits all. So, rest your body, your mind will benefit, rest your mind, rest your body, et cetera. They all link into each other. That's really important.
So, her quiz can help you to identify what is the best one for you to start with, if you don't know. Now, your own intuition may well be telling you exactly what you need there, and you may not need to do any quiz at all, but if you do want to do it, it's restquiz.com, and it's a free assessment.
It's the usual sort of thing, it takes you into her world and you can decide if you want to go further into the world or if you just want to do the quiz and leave it at that
Howard Lovy: Well, good. I think I'm probably the poster child for emotional rest.
Orna Ross: I'm not going to say which one I'm poster child for. Too many of them.
Howard Lovy: Right, but the idea is you pick one and then the others will follow.
Orna Ross: Yeah, exactly. It's not that you're neglecting the others. You begin in one place, because trying to hit them all at once is just going to give you another heap of labour that isn't going to be very restful. So, if you choose one and focus in on that, you will automatically find that the others begin to come more into your awareness. Even just understanding that there are seven types of rest, I found that very useful when I read the book, and I'm hoping that our listeners will find it useful too.
Howard Lovy: Well, wonderful. So, it doesn't seem so daunting if you pick one. If you don't know which one, take the quiz.
That's all the time we have for now. Thank you Orna, for your insights on the very important topic of creative rest. As always, I've learned a great deal from our session, and will try to incorporate your advice into my own creative work.
Orna Ross: Okay. Keep us posted.
Howard Lovy: Okay, well maybe I won't keep you posted, but thank very much, Orna.
Orna Ross: Thank you. Thanks everyone. Happy writing and publishing. Bye now.