For Blue, taking downtime – time to nap, relax, ponder, stare into space – comes naturally. Unfortunately, we are notoriously known as a nation of workaholics. Our eyes remain fixed on the prize of a premium wage with benefits. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with making money. I could certainly stand to make a little more. But I refuse to trade the work my heart calls me to do, which revolves around writing and the creative life, for good health insurance and a big paycheck. Not that I could actually find a job offering these in today’s economy, so I might as well celebrate the choices I’ve already made.
I’m sure my faithful readers know there are few wealthy poets in the world. Go back through history and you will discover poets, playwrights, novelists, painters, and musicians who lived on the edge of poverty; often buried in obscurity and resurrected into riches long after death. Think Dickens, Van Gogh, Edgar Allen Poe, Mozart. So, if you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth or married into money, then you must create a lifestyle simple enough that even a poet can afford it.
We can’t let our physical circumstances discourage us as artists. We are busily setting examples for the rest of the world. And in order to perform at our highest level, we must have time to dream. Empty space must exist before it can be filled with answers, ideas, genius. My partner and I have discovered a way to make money at home, inventing our own business, which itself was a result of time Leigh spent thinking and pondering ideas. Her job as a hospice nurse presents her with driving time that, when the radio or IPod is turned off, can be used for unstructured thinking and the birthing of great ideas.
While Blue takes up two beds in order to make his long body comfortable, you can see that he’s not just sleeping away the hours here. Some of the time, at least, he’s awake and daydreaming, perhaps about the dinner he would like to have or that snappy little treat at bedtime. We, as driven creatives and artists, must take Blue’s example to heart. Information and experience are forever flying furiously in our faces in this modern, increasingly connected world. We need time to process it, find our own connections and metaphors, the imagery that suffocates soundbytes and brings all that abstraction to life on the page.
For all I know, Blue is busily writing his memoirs while he lies there soaking up the heat. They may not be interesting to us as most of the chapters will be about lying around and doing nothing all day until dinner. To dogs the world over, however, the book will be a bestseller. Every 4-legged will be instantly jealous and wish they lived in a household with 2 moms.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going…out to the hammock or the reclining lawn chair. Stretch out on a sofa in front of the wood stove. Recline. Sit beneath a shade tree and listen to the birds. Stare at the blank blue page of sky. Remember, all creation starts in the dark. You may hear answers whispered in the wind through the leaves. A dream can form during that nap next to the fire which might confirm the path you need to follow, the perfect allusion or image needed to move the work forward.
For these reasons, or for none at all, Americans need to relax. Take a siesta. Slow down. Dream. Notice I did not say do this in front of an active screen. No smart phone, no laptop, no TV or Kindle to replace the images that are waiting to form on the blank page of your mind. As my friend, writer/composer Billy Jonas says in his wonderful song, God Is In, ” Don’t just do something. Sit there.”
Getting somewhere by pushing harder and harder towards one’s stated goals is an illusion. We are all headed in the same direction, after all, and do we really want to be the first ones to reach The End? Ten out of ten hospice nurses agree that no patient has ever wished they’d spent more time at the office. Even those of us who love our work need time away from it. Truly, it’s part of the process.
So, please, my eager creatives, don’t forget your down(dream)time. It’s crucial to your work, your well-being, and ultimately to the quality of the love and life you experience while you’re here. You don’t have to take my word for it, just ask Blue.