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Pulling Back to Push Forward: The Power of Small Breaks

When I was a teacher in a public school, I used every bit of my creative energy. It was a constant process of decision making and organization. Teaching is both invigorating and exhausting. I learned to give myself small breaks. Sometimes I took the children outside to write poetry. The sunlight and fresh air calmed them and it gave me a tiny chance to recoup some energy. Other times, we listened to an audio version of a story. This gave my voice a break and enthralled the students. Taking small breaks, or diversions, is a skill that I have carried into my art practice.

This week, I’m taking a little diversion from my series paintings. I know that the series will be fine without constant attention. I will soon be back on track with the 13th painting. In the meantime, the pace has slowed a little with a tight botanical painting of a multi-tiered lily. It requires really small brushes, accurate measurements and repetition of details. It’s really more illustration than anything else. Illustration is soothing to me. Sometimes it’s nice to simply paint exactly what I see.

Taking a break doesn’t have to be elaborate to be effective. Maybe I’m an essentially lazy person, but there are all sorts of breaks that I work into my schedule. Time away from creativity helps me to gain a different perspective and bring something new and fresh to my art. It can be as simple as switching to a different project. For me, pulling back a little helps me to push forward even stronger.

Here are a few of my favorite mini breaks:

Brushing my dog’s long coat

Prepping vegetables for dinner

Pulling weeds in my flower beds

Going out for ice cream or coffee

Looking at books about flowers

Floating around in a pool

Taking a real nap

Folding the laundry

Meeting a friend for happy hour

Browsing the library

Straightening my work area

Wandering through a garden or park

Taking a warm bubble bath

Moving my work to a different room

Arranging flowers in a vase

Watching clouds

Getting absorbed in a good book

Using a new paint color or technique

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