Today my husband was telling me about recovery time as related to physical and mental activities. He's reading (for the third time) The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. Waitzkin was an elite chess player at a very early age (9) and then went on to be a world champion in the martial art Tai Chi Chuan. I didn't think this book would relate much to my creative habits project but now I'm thinking it might need to be next on my reading list. Here's a little bit from Waitzkin that describes the topic of our conversation:
"There is no way we can focus intensely on something for many hours in a row without burning out. The human mind thrives in an oscillatory rhythm. We need to pulse between stress and recovery in order to think creatively over long periods of time. I learned this lesson in my chess career, trying to concentrate feverishly in world-class tournaments 8 hours a day for two weeks straight. After starting to train with the performance psychologists at the Human Performance Institute, I noticed that after an intense 13 minutes of thinking in a chess game, the quality of my process deteriorated slightly. So I started taking little breaks between chess moves or whenever my energy flagged—if extremely tired, I’d wash my face with cold water or even go outside and sprint 50 yards, which would flush my physiology and leave me energized. My endurance and creativity soared." -Josh Waitzkin via zen habits
We all get to that point where things are no longer flowing, whether it be in writing, drawing, or whatever creative work. We have to be able to recognize when we are there and take a break. I like to think of it as a reset button. We need to know what activities work best to reset our creativity. For me, I go for a walk/run, garden, or take a shower. I waste more time sitting there accomplishing nothing than if I stop myself and do a reset/recovery activity and come back to it.
"I've come to realize that what I am best at is not Tai Chi, and it is not chess," he says. "What I am best at is the art of learning." -Josh Waitzkin