Does Idleness help creativity?

Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, in their book How Google Works, proclaim that “Today we all live and work in a new era, the Internet Century, where technology is rolling the business landscape and the pace of change is accelerating”. We have become a society that is in a relentless pursuit of quicker, faster, now.

Common exchanges of ‘Crazy Busy’ and ‘Just so Busy’ are the obscured boasts we proclaim, yet anxiety sets in as soon as our calendars free up.

In the digital era we live in, the potential of our own creativity is rapidly being compromised. Quick fixes and immediate gratification are favoured.

I suggest that the space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary. Paradoxically it is necessary to getting any work done.


Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body. It is the breeding ground for innovation.

There is much to be said for the ‘creative pause’ to disengage from the modern distractions of the world around us.

The facts:

Some studies have shown that the mind solves the most complex problems while daydreaming. Breakthroughs that seem to come out of nowhere are often the product of diffuse mode thinking.

That’s because the relaxation associated with daydream mode “can allow the brain to hook up and return valuable insights,” engineering Professor Barbara Oakley explained.

“When you’re focusing, you’re actually blocking your access to the diffuse mode. And the diffuse mode, it turns out, is what you often need to be able to solve a very difficult, new problem.”

And so I leave you with this quote from Virginia Woolf:

“It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes makes its way to the surface.”

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