Using Down Time And Wait Time For Creativity

6:01 AM

I call the image above Quilted Madness. There are 100 little squares in that piece and every single one of them is different from the others. Oh, and the overall size of the art is 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches!


Yes, but it served its purpose.

I detest sitting around without something to do and if you've spent much time in doctor's offices or physical therapist's offices, you know there isn't much to do except stare at gossip magazines, other patients or at the generic art on the walls.

Since wait times are a necessary evil in our society and because I've been spending far more time in these offices than I normally would due to my father's back surgery and physical therapy, I had to come up with a way to combat the dreaded staring.

Yes, I could have read a book, and yes, that would have been entertaining, it's usually not creative.

I started coming up with projects that I could stretch over several appointments where each step took only a small amount of time. This allowed me to stop in the middle without it being critical to the piece of work.

I also didn't have to worry if I would remember where I left off and what I had in mind when I did stop abruptly because my father's name was called.

These types of projects worked well to keep creativity at the forefront of my mind but without stressing myself out.

The quilt was especially challenging (more than I realized) as I had to really push myself to come up with different textures for each square. Many are similar but none are identical. Then I had to think about color. I started in the center and planned to work out to the edges, but somewhere along the way I forgot my plan.

The next thing I knew, I'd put a colored block into a section I had intended to leave white. Instead of scrapping the project, I simply made an adjustment to the layout and kept going. I still didn't stick to my plan though. By the time it was done, I had sections filled in all over the place.

I had to check and recheck to make sure I was in the right square, but it did a beautiful job of filling those long, boring minutes with something creative and fun.

Am I always successful at creating on these doctor visits?


Sometimes, I needed to change it up. Art wasn't always the answer and reading didn't always get it, but between the two, I always managed to pass the time.

Another take type of project is to take a line for a walk:

I started in the lower right side of the paper with the paisley shape and I simply kept adding until I had filled most of the page. While it looks kinda zentangle-ish, it's not. It's more about drawing a line in a random pattern and then filling the spaces with shapes and pattern. It's generally not organized and rather chaotic.

I did most of the drawing during office visits and then added color all at once as that was a bit more intensive than the drawing. Painting in some of the smaller shapes would have been quite doable in the office, but the background would have provided a far bigger challenge.

Being creative with downtime can be pretty simple and easy to do if you choose the right kind of projects. These may not appeal to you. Several artists I know use these (supposably) short windows of time to challenge themselves to sketch other patients and visitors. I do that too on occasion, but I tend to like the projects that don't require as much brain power!

One of the payoffs of working during these waiting periods is improved concentration. I can focus on the art and still pay attention to what's going on around me (listening for my dad's name, dealing with distractions and questions from other curious onlookers, etc.). I find that when I'm sketching around other people now, I'm not as bother by a break in my concentration or by questions.

It also seems like my hand and eye coordination have strengthened and I know my ability to see and create patterns has improved!

Whatever appeals to you is what will work best. Knitting, crocheting, drawing, sketching, any creative endeavor works. I find keeping it simple works best for me. If I don't get back to it for a while, I can still pick up where I left off. Don't overlook those small pockets of time—you'll come to appreciate them as small gifts when you start getting into the groove of working quick.

If you do something similar, please leave a comment below with a link to your project. I'd love to see other ways of spending my time in more productive ways!

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5 Creative Thought(s)

  1. I always take a small sketchbook with me to the dr. Luckily we don't live in an area where you have to wait too long. I usually sketch what room I am in and/or the other patients. Often I don't get finished so I have a lot of little starts and stops.
    Your quilt is so colorful. It reminds me of a lady that lives in the town down the road from where I live. She painted a "barn" quilt for their barn. It soon took a life of its own. So many people wanted one of these barn quilts that she had a small business on her hands before she knew it. The local Chamber of Commerce (or some such entity) started promoting the project as a tourist route to drive to see all the quilts. You can see it here

    1. Wow! Thanks for sharing, Lisa! I've seen some of the barn quilts before but how cool to have something like that for a business. I too tried sketching some of the rooms we were in but I had so many stops and starts, it started to frustrate me. This type of project seems to be working much better.

  2. A clever, creative idea to fill those hours waiting. How wonderful to have such beautiful projects emerge in the wasteland of a waiting room! I always take my Kindle, but often I find a television blaring in a waiting area and find it difficult to concentrate. When my hands are involved, I can more easily ignore distractions.

    1. Yes! The televisions always seem to be cranked up to an obnoxious level or they're droning on about all the things that might be wrong with you and why you should ask your doctor about something. Those programs are enough to make anyone think they're sick! I do sometimes read, but like you, I'm usually best distracted when I have something that involves my head and hands.

  3. These pieces are so much fun, and I know they were therapeutic to create. They remind me of a more creative (since you created the designs yourself) version of coloring in a coloring book, which is also supposed to be relaxing and stress relieving. I'll have to consider this the next time I'm waiting--that is, if I can tear myself away from the book I always have with me!


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