The Power of Rest on Your Creative Journey

In a world driven by hustle culture, the phrase “Rest is productive” can feel like a breath of fresh air. You’ve probably stumbled upon this mantra at one point or another! 

As a coach for creative entrepreneurs, I’ve personally witnessed the incredible impact of adopting this mindset in my own life, business, and among my clients.

Today, I want to share a relatable story from one of my clients, a talented writer who also paints, to illustrate the importance of rest and how it is not just productive but a fundamental part of running and sustaining a creative business.

The Guilt

Recently, a client reached out to me feeling overwhelmed by guilt and frustration about her perceived lack of productivity. 

She’s a writer, and at the start of the week, she had decided she would write at least 10,000 words, spend 4 hours each day in her writing studio, and have a semblance of a first draft for her new project by week’s end. This project was really important to her.

Despite physically showing up to her writing desk every day (something she does both regularly and consistently in her business), she kept hitting creative block after creative block. The blinking cursor stared at her no matter how many hours she put in or how hard she tried.

And when she did manage to write, she ended up throwing it away– figuratively crumpling up her Google Docs and tossing them in the trash.

In the words of Robert Burns, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Written hundreds of years ago, those words still ring true.

But every time my client sat down to write, she would fill out pages and pages in her sketchbook INSTEAD of on her keyboard. 

Before she knew it, she found herself immersed in an illustration project rather than her planned writing tasks. 

At the end of the week, instead of feeling excited that she had felt so creatively inspired, she felt GUILTY.

Society’s idea of productivity had her second-guessing the value of her creative process. It was like she needed to prove she was doing something worthwhile.

The Coaching Process

I stepped in and reminded her of some major wins (that she had actually pointed out to me during our conversation):

  1. She had met her financial goals for the month (a specific number we previously set).

  2. It didn’t interfere with her personal life like showing up as a mom!

  3. She hadn’t missed any deadlines. Everything that needed to get done got done before she went down the “illustration rabbit hole!”

  4. She allowed herself time for play and exploration without financial pressure. THIS is her definition of success that we had honed in on early on in our work together. 

And in my opinion, her biggest win was that she consistently went to work without forcing it. She stuck to her commitment by showing up at her writing studio and sitting down at her desk every day. She genuinely made the effort and could proudly say she was there for herself as much as possible. 

However, when it became clear that she was not making progress, she changed course. This is a highly valuable skill as an entrepreneur and a creative person! 

When faced with a challenge, what’s the better approach? 

Continuously banging your head against the wall, hoping it will eventually break (Ouch! Who knows what condition you’ll be in one you get to the other side)? Or exploring and searching for alternative paths around the wall (more exciting, with new perspectives along the way, and probably less painful than the other option)?

Despite these glaringly clear wins that aligned with her unique definition of success, she still struggled to break free from the guilt associated with deviating from her initial creative plan.

She even tried to justify how this work was going to contribute to the end writing project she had in mind.

She was bargaining with herself and trying to figure out how she could make sure that the creative work she did when she “went rogue” could feed into the project she had set out to tackle in the first place.

I urged her to pump the brakes! 

Instead of ruminating and justifying, we explored the concept that productivity extends beyond the traditional definition. Her notebook sketches and doodles were not just a byproduct of her unintentional creative process but a tangible and valuable outcome in and of themselves. I encouraged her to reframe her definition of productivity and recognize that rest, in any form, is an essential part of the creative journey.

Just because she wasn’t creating in the way she’d initially planned or envisioned didn’t mean all was lost!

She hadn’t let anyone down or flaked on any of her obligations. And at the end of the day, she was still creating! Just not in the way she wanted or anticipated. 

For that reason, she was disappointed in herself because she wasn’t as “productive” as she thought she “should” be.

It was the guilt talking– plain and simple!

If you’ve ever been in a similar position in your life or business,  I hope you take note and can walk away from this blog with a new perspective on how rest plays a part in your creative process too!

I took a moment to share a meme I recently came across with her.

The first image was a picture of a pin-straight line connecting Point A to Point B.

The title: “What we think the creative process looks like.” 

The second image was a picture with Point A and Point B but the line was far from straight. It dipped and curved, rose and fell, from one point to another in a sloppy squiggly mess. 

The title: “What the creative process is ACTUALLY like.”

This guilt that comes with not feeling productive on our creative journey is something no creative should have to carry.

If your process is feeling discombobulated and more like the second image in this meme, it’s because you, like my client, are in the messy middle of your scribble (aka your mid-scribble era)! 

Here are some key takeaways that my client’s coaching call with me revealed about productivity and the creative process — especially as business owners — so that you can give yourself grace on your unique journey from Point A to B (and maybe stumble upon C along the way)!

The Takeaways

Rest is Productive

The mantra doesn’t lie– rest IS productive! Rest is not a break from productivity; it is a catalyst for it. Embrace the idea that allowing your mind to wander, explore, and recharge is an essential part of the creative process.

Reframe Your Definition of Productive

It’s crucial to broaden our perspective on productivity. Sometimes, the intangible outcomes of our creative process are just as valuable as the visible ones. Just because you haven’t ticked a box off your to-do list doesn’t mean you haven’t gained any traction. Sometimes we need to slow down now to speed up later.

Redefine Your Definition of Rest

Rest can take many forms. For my client, creative time working on a project outside of her creative business felt restful. For others, a good old-fashioned nap or sleeping in an extra hour after your alarm goes off counts as rest. The truth is, rest is whatever fills you up energetically and creatively. It will most likely shift in different seasons of life or business or as your needs change! 

Invisible Progress Matters

Just because you can’t see how it all comes together right away doesn’t mean your downtime wasn’t productive. We are constantly processing (not just our work but also current events and personal situations), both consciously and subconsciously, even when we don’t feel like we’re “on task” or “focused.” Trust the process, even if it feels like you’re wasting time in the moment. Sometimes, the most significant breakthroughs come from unexpected places.

Your Self-Worth is Not Tied to Output

It’s easy to fall into the trap of equating self-worth with productivity, especially when your creative work is so closely tied to your profession and your income. Remember, you are not defined by your output. Your value as a creative goes beyond what you produce and you are more than your business or your creations.

Burnout is Avoidable

Constantly trying to measure up to traditional notions of productivity is a surefire path to burnout. We live in a society where people are constantly trying to fit more and more into the same 24-hour day with productivity hacks when in reality, often less is more! Recognize that rest is a necessary component for regeneration, both physically and creatively.

Rest is a Biological Need, Not a Luxury

Understand that rest is not a luxury to be earned. It is literally a biological need (cells do it!). Give yourself permission to take a nap, read a book (just for fun’s sake), sunbathe, mindlessly putter, or gaze at the stars without feeling the need to justify, defend, or explain it – even if resting doesn’t actually translate into productivity!

Seriously, consider writing yourself a permission slip– it can be a powerful exercise!

When you’re in a state of ease instead of fight-or-flight, creativity will flow in your work, and you’ll have clarity when it comes to decision-making in your business. 


To sum it up, the big takeaway here is simple: rest and creative time aren’t just about taking a break; it’s an important part of being creative, especially as a creative entrepreneur! It’s time we recognize its significance, not as a luxury, but as a necessity and even a strength.

What if resting consistently could actually become your superpower and the greatest investment you make in your work and your business?

As I reminded my client, during her drawing sessions, she had ample time for processing and reflection. I firmly believe that this restful, seemingly “unproductive” period allowed her to slow down so she can move forward more intentionally and make thoughtfully aligned decisions for her business. It also provided the opportunity to replenish her creative well. So, when the inspiration to write strikes, the words will naturally flow.

As you go on your creative journey, remember that giving yourself time to recharge isn’t just something you can do – it’s something you must do. Your creative projects will thank you for the energy boost that comes from recognizing how important rest –in all its shapes and forms– truly is.

Ready to make rest a non-negotiable part of your creative process? It all comes down to building a business you love that loves you back. 

When you get clear on what you value and prioritize, you can intentionally create a business that fits your needs and goals now and in the future. This is what I teach creative entrepreneurs like you how to do (without the guesswork) in my digital course Business Building for Creatives

Check it out here!


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