If you’ve spent anytime in academia you are probably familiar with the sabbatical. It is the time when professors get out of the classroom and focus on their research. Sabbaticals are also making inroads in corporate culture, where employees step out of the office for an extended period of time to reflect on their careers, to gain clarity on the direction they want to go, and to up grade their skills.
Sabbaticals are also a useful tool for creatives. How often do you take time to focus on your creativity without your day-to-day responsibilities eating into that time? If you have a creative business, how often do you create with no intention for the outcome?
In my opinion, what makes a creative sabbatical different from the others is the energy that surrounds it. It is a time to call forth your inner rebel and break all the rules; it is a time to be the mad scientist creating from the wildest part of your imagination. It is all about taking creative risks and expanding your boundaries.
So how do you make a creative sabbatical successful?
Devote your time to play and exploration with no other intention. This is an opportunity to reconnect with or cultivate new inspiration. A time to play with new materials and mediums. Cultivate your curiosity – pretend you are the scientist, or the rebel or a 5-year-old and just go with it. Let your intuition guide you.
Separate completely from your regular routine. Enroll family and friends to help you manage your existing commitments so that you can step out of your daily life into what I think of as a creative incubator. Turn off the computer and the telephone. Pay all your bills before hand. It is a time of retreat. A time of single focus.
Create or find a safe, comfortable space. This is key, it is your creative incubator. You’ll open up more when you are comfortable. You’ll have more fun in a space with room to move, a space filled with materials you picked up on a whim. Think: “What can I do with a popsicle stick/pipe cleaner/ paperclip?” The space is your lab, be sure it is where you want to be. Also be sure, that everything you might need is within reach. Stock up on water and cookies, have your journal, a blanket and comfy pillow at hand.
Finally, and most importantly, leave your creative critic at the door. There is no room for that voice in your incubator. If you create mud out of paint, well that is an act of creation and nothing more. This isn’t a time to judge or perfect your methods. It is a time of play.
The time you take for your sabbatical, whether it is one day or a month, will be well worth it. What will emerge is not limited to your creativity. You will feel refreshed, energized, and connected in a new way to your work, your family, your friends, and yourself.
Take a moment and reflect: is it time to go play? If so, write a story or create a vision board detailing what your sabbatical looks like. How long is it? Where are you? What do you need in the space? What kind of support do you need logistically to make it happen?
Then make the commitment to yourself and go have fun.