I have chosen not to direct one of Shakespeare’s play this summer, choosing to direct smaller projects and to free up some time to be with my family. This was not an easy decision, as my love for his work is profound, but I have rediscovered that creative work is, well, exhausting, and I also needed time to recharge my creativity, drive, and discipline.
While there are twinges of disappointment, after five years of summer Shakespeare there is an expectation of entertainment, people have been kind, and understanding, and even congratulatory. “Good for you!” they say, or “Glad you can take of yourself first!” This has all been very good for my ego, and my decision, but I cannot help but find it a bit peculiar.
After some reflection, taking time off is incredibly valuable. Whether “time off” means gardening, reading, painting, building a deck, cooking more, or simply laying in a hammock, taking time away from your main creative endeavor is necessary. “Time off” isn’t quitting, or not being productive. It is a shift in mindset that allows for diversion, boredom, and exploration. During this time (which in the academic realm is called a sabbatical), we encounter new ideas, things, perspectives, and are free to process them at an easier pace, so when we do return to our work, we can return with new eyes, more objectivity, more ideas, and more energy.
Time off is also a clever trick to make us forget the exhaustion and burnout of creative activities, and let us remember the joy of making.