What Happened When I Took an Unexpected Creative Break

Taking a creative break

There was a time when my days were a blank canvas. I would wake up and have the entire day ahead of me - free to plan and do as I wished.

In all honesty, I look back and feel like I didn’t fully appreciate that freedom. There were too many days I squandered aimlessly “busying” myself with menial administrative tasks or getting lost down a social media rabbit hole.

I talk a lot about prioritizing time to be creative but with so much freedom of time I realize now I was putting it last and making a lot of excuses.

“Oh, I can just paint tonight I have nothing going”

“I’ll have time to paint this afternoon as soon as I finish checking emails”

“Tomorrow is wide open, I’ll just spend the whole afternoon painting”

And I’m sure you know how it goes... “this afternoon”, “tonight” and “tomorrow” all got pushed to the next day, and then the next. Because there was always something more important to do. At least that’s what I told myself.

THE UNEXPECTED CREATIVE BREAK

Then something big happened that completely changed life as I knew it. We had a baby.

And just like that, the wide-open-blank-canvas days I had were gone. Instead, they were occupied with a little button-nosed babe that required all of my attention.

Before he arrived, I mentally prepared to stop and fully embrace parenthood. I thought I might still have time to paint for fun during this time but days, weeks, and then months flew by.

I was enjoying being a mom even though I was sleep deprived and there were bad days mixed in with the good. I am lucky to have family close by to help but I still didn’t have the desire to sit down at my desk to paint. In fact, I couldn’t paint much anyways as I had pretty bad pain from carpal tunnel in both hands from the pregnancy and delivery.

I gave myself grace and I didn’t feel guilty about not painting. So many people advised me to treasure this time with the baby because it passes so quickly. Of course, everyone was right. Three months rolled around and I don’t even know where the time went.

A SPARK OF INSPIRATION

Somewhere around the 3 month mark, I felt a spark of inspiration. It was around the time my carpal tunnel finally went away completely and it was like a switch flipped. I was scrolling around on Instagram, saw a painting in a style I’ve always wanted to try and said to myself: I’m going to try painting in that style.

Now, pre-baby Susan would have thought about it and probably decided not to try it because “I have too many other things to work on.” Back then I was prioritizing my business and spending less and less time painting for fun.

The truth is, even when I was painting, I was painting things I thought I should create for this blog and social media and not what I wanted to create. After taking a break from creating content, I realized it had been a long time since I painted just because I wanted to.

Three months post-baby Susan finally realized that time is a very precious commodity, not to be wasted. As much I love him, when he’s sleeping I am free. I can take time for myself but the window is short. OH, SO SHORT.

Making decisions on how to spend that small window of time can feel overwhelming. There are so many things I should do, but what about what I want to do? I realized I need to spend some of these moments doing the things that recharge my soul and bring me joy. And with that thought, I found myself deciding that the next chance I had, I would use the time to paint what I wanted.

It’s as if taking time away from painting was exactly what I needed to recharge my creativity and learn how to make it a priority again.

So the next time I found myself with free time, I got out my supplies, found this YouTube video by Sergei Kurbatov and without overthinking it, I painted. I attempted it 2 times and then tried my own version a 3rd time. And you know what? I loved how it turned out, it was fun, and I did it all in less than an hour.

My first real painting session after taking a 3-month long creative break

My first real painting session after taking a 3-month long creative break

LESSONS LEARNED from my break

After this experience, I had a realization that I used to feel some resistance to trying something new. I was afraid that it wouldn’t turn out the way I’d hope, so I’d put it off or make a single timid attempt because I didn’t have the courage to experiment and keep practicing. Probably because I was telling myself I had other (more important) things I should be doing.

I notice now that I don’t hesitate as much as did before. Maybe because I know if I do, it will mean I wasted that precious window of free time.

I didn’t plan to take a 3 month break. In fact, I don’t think I would have ever thought to take one in the first place. But now that I look back on it, I really needed it.

Stepping away helped me realize a few things:

  • Taking a creative break can be like cleaning your palette and starting with a fresh blank page

  • When inspiration whispers, listen closely so you can respond accordingly

  • Hesitating and putting off creating out of a lack of confidence or feeling too busy is not a great reason. Just sit down and put paint to paper.

Creative breaks can be restorative and bring a great sense of clarity just by stepping back for a short time. I hope that this post encourages you to take a break if you feel the need to and inspires you to return from one if you’ve been away for too long.

Have you taken a creative break? Was it on purpose or accidental? How did you feel during your break and after you returned? Comment below and share your story with me!

Thanks so much for reading,
Susan


LOOKING FOR A WAY TO GET BACK TO CREATING?

Maybe you’ve been on a break from being creative. It might be a short time (a few weeks) or a long time (since your childhood). Either way, I truly believe that creating things feeds our souls. Your medium of choice might be colored pencils or a needle and thread. Or you might enjoy trying all different sorts of creative outlets (that’s me too!)

If watercolor is something you’ve been wanting to try but aren’t sure where to start, sign up below and take my free online beginner’s workshop. I love helping people discover what watercolors is all about!