A Rest is as Good as a Change

We’ve discussed before the importance of knowing when to stop. Once you’ve had a chance to refresh, you may find everything’s actually fine. Sometimes, a rest is as good as a change.


Recently, I have been working on a commission to create a soundscape for an art installation. It’s a big undertaking: over two hours in length and with multiple strands of sound. Not surprisingly, this became somewhat overwhelming and it was necessary for me to take some time out.

As luck would have it, another commission came in, with a shorter deadline. So, I was actually forced to take a pause. Returning now to the larger project in hand, I find that I had begun to overthink things. Fortunately, though, I had saved copies of the work at different stages, so it is possible to rewind a little.

Losing Sight

And here’s another important lesson. Whilst we have often talked about the importance of creative freedom and unfettered exploration, their can be a danger of losing sight of what was already working. So, when new steps are taken, it is wise to keep a track of them, so that unpicking may be achieved if needed.

In the case of this soundtrack, I was able to return to an earlier version and find that the more recent additions made were really unnecessary. It was only possible to have this clarity after having stepped away and thought about something else for a while. Listening afresh, it was much easier to hear what works and what doesn’t.

Change Channels

So, how do we apply this insight to creative work with children? When their activity is tightly scheduled, it can be hard to say ‘walk away now and do something else’. True, but it is possible for them to be diverted to another part of the process. Children will quickly be able to ‘change channels’ and, with the right prompting, easily find their way back to where they were once the time is right (possible during the following session).

For us grown-ups, especially if we are carrying out screen-based tasks, the pressure to carry on until something is ‘finished’ is always present. However, many jobs can benefit from a little distance and then a review, prior to completion. How many of us have, for instance, sent an email and then wished we had proof-read it first?

Have a Rest

With creative work, the eternal question of ‘when do I know it’s finished?’ can be hard to answer. And it may well be that we pass that point without noticing. When things begin to get difficult – or feel bogged-down – it may be a sign we’ve already crossed that line.

After time to clear your thoughts and see/hear/experience your work with a fresh mind, you may find that it was finished after all. Or, alternatively, you may simply now have a stronger vision of what to do next. Either way, you will – at least – have had a rest. Which is never a bad thing.

Knowing When to Stop

Do Less to Achieve More

Your Creative Curve

Creative Impatience

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move