There is nothing more gratifying than the anticipation that comes with nearing a few days off from work. It is an exhilarating feeling — and the good thing is that it sticks around for a little while.
Those who are particularly creative or work in a creative field, such as music, art, or graphic/digital media, can vouch that vacations can improve or reset personal work schedules for a fresh start again later.
Nevertheless, when the vacation time actually arrives, panic mode sometimes sets in (at least for us artist-teacher types). That’s because we’re faced with the reality that time off from work really means the start, or continuation, of an important project.
But it’s very possible to utilize vacations or even “stay-cations” to prevent the number-one detractor of productivity in the arts, namely…
Burnout can only be erased when you spend time away from work or creative projects.
Taking a vacation is definitely something you can commit to, even when starting out as an entrepreneur in the arts.
Here are 5 reasons you, as a creative type, need to take time off this year:
1. You Need to Recharge Your Batteries
It cannot be emphasized enough that the arts, especially music, requires us to be like the Energizer Bunny…just going and going and going. Moreover, it requires a set of skills ranging from simple decision-making to aesthetics to business savviness.
And, if you start out in any artistic area, the overwhelming array of demands, skills, and requirements of experience might simply crush you.
However, perhaps, the most important skill to master first is time management, specifically, prioritization of time.
To start, notice your work habits, challenges, and weaknesses, as well as how you feel and think after hours of various tasks. Then, use the hours of the day when you work the best to be laser-focused about your work.
Flow, a psychology text on the generation of happiness and creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, touches on this concept of utilizing our creative “calling” and our skills to manage the work hours of our day to lead to optimal productivity.
BUT, even then, the daily energy used in creativity begins to wear on us (yes, those Grape-Nuts eaten in the morning get burned away). So, balance must be placed between a fast-paced regular workflow and a slower vacation pace.
2. You Need More Sleep
Creative people often burn the Midnight oil or rise early in the morning to finish their final thoughts on a step for a major project. (Most fit into the “night owl” category, staying up very late.)
The upside of staying up late is that it allows you to complete a cycle of work, instead of preferring to finish it the next day. Nobody wants to feel behind, right?
The downside is that this pattern of workflow does not match the hours required at typical non-entrepreneurial artistic jobs, where the organization still dictates your hours.
Middle-to-senior level jobs might allow flexibility, while entrepreneurial work would allow slightly greater flexibility.
Cue in our sleep hours! Ideally, creative musician or artist would require at least 8 hours of sleep to function optimally throughout the day and live up to the “night owl” ability to have increased concentration throughout the day.
Over time, though, sleep is truly lost and creativity might become less original and increasingly based on old patterns of decision-making, paradigms, projects, etc.
Use your vacation time to correct the imbalance in hours of creative work versus hours spent asleep. Doing so allows the brain to process new information and creatively enforce new artistic pathways — so you’re more effective when you return to your passion project or job.
3. You Can Feed Your Side Project
Artists and artistic entrepreneurs tend to work best when they are in control of the amount of time and resources to work on a project. It somehow fits in with the perfectionistic ideal!
Often, this takes shape as a side project, which is common in artists in their early to mid-career.
Usually, the time required for a side project is a lot! Often, the details — such as planning the types of resources and budget for a multi-sensory musical event in Gotham Square, New York City — require intense planning. So, focusing on it during free evenings or weekends often isn’t enough.
Use your vacation to dedicate time to your side projects and keep them moving along. Remember to make this time non-negotiable because it can be easy for other “priorities” to elbow their way in.
4. You Are Able to Remember What Really Matters
There will always be a few days in the office that are less than desireable. If you run into a series of bad days, it can lead to a slump and it will feel like an uphill climb to achieve anything even mediocre.
Creative people tend to go “against the grain,” which can hurt their chances of success on an office project.
A simple request for a few days off can help alleviate built-up stress and allow your body to really relax.
With this free time, you can think a little more logically and remember what matters most to you. During this deep contemplative thought, you might get clear about what really motivates you in life, such as friends/family, religion, exercise, and even personal time.
5. You Find New Inspiration
Often, a vacation might become part of the large body of work for an artist or musician.
Because artists take in all kinds of sensory language, imagery, and ideas, they are uniquely poised to make decisions regarding the use of cultural or aesthetic portions of a vacation’s location.
This imagery can easily “burn into” a body of work.
Here are two examples. Take George Gershwin and his “Cuban Overture,” or Aaron Copland and “El Salón México,” both of which were penned during actual trips to those places and which feel like musical photographs of both countries.
Perhaps, American painter Georgia O’Keeffe, sculptor Alexander Calder, or choreographer Martha Graham might also have created similar tastes.
A very topical example of what can happen on vacation: Lin-Manuel Miranda famously discovered the inspiration for his smash-hit musical Hamilton while on vacation back in 2007, when he picked up a copy of Ron Chernow’s Hamilton biography. You never know where inspiration might strike — but it sure helps to create the space for it.
Artist. Teacher. First-time Blogger. Blog Post. Check… Spring Break.
As I write this, I am following through with some of these reasons mentioned above while on vacation. It has meant so much to me.
I plan daily for lessons, yet I am working in time to help music students and explore avenues for creative assessment.
I am weaving in and out of others’ schedules and designing ways to push bits of musical culture into the minds of America’s next generation.
In a way, I am in a situation akin to a kickboxing match, where I try to knock out requirements here and there.
Sometimes life requires you to keep your “nose to the grind,” but the overwhelming effect could be negative when compounded over time.
On vacation, I can re-align myself and prepare for the next steps.
Vacations and “stay-cations,” serve as a bit of fresh air amidst stifling workflow and environment, a boon against possibly doomed project work, and/or a balance evening out levels of creative work on multiple projects.
Nathan Forrest is currently a P-12 music teacher and director of wind bands at the Harman School in Harman, West Virginia. He is an avid trumpet player, accompanist for elementary choirs, writer, and cook. He hopes to continue to explore the intersection between productivity in school music environments and that of professional orchestras, contemporary bands, and arts organizations.