Creativity and Wasted Time

Jim recently shared with me a quote from Albert Einstein who once said, “Creativity is the residue of wasted time.”

Creative Boys

What a brilliant way to put it!  I have always felt that lots and lots of free time is essential.  I believe it so much that we’ve made it foundational  to how we homeschool  and how we raise our children.  I think that children need lots of time to waste and lots of space in which to waste it.  So although there are times when our schedules are busy, I make sure those times are temporary and don’t last long.

I also allow the children to make creative messes in the house and barn.  They build forts and castles and cut up paper and hammer pieces of wood together.  One of the things that I’m super excited about with the new property is that the children will have woods and a creek to play in.  That was my desire when we moved out to Indiana eight years ago, and now that desire is being fulfilled!  I fully expect them to spend lots of time building tree houses and camouflage forts and dams and bridges.

Why do I do this?  Because I think time to be creative is essential to learning how to solve problems.  And life is full of problems.  And businesses are full of problems.  And relationships are full of problems.  If you know how to be creative, you can figure out creative solutions to your problems – like if you need an alarm clock and don’t have one.

When I was researching the quote by Einstein, I came across a quote by Jonah Lehrer, author of the book, Imagine.  He was asked in a SmartPlanet.com interview, “What surprised you the most in your research for the book Imagine?  Here is his answer:

One thing was the research on moments of insight and how they benefit from states of relaxation. Before I wrote this book, I assumed that if I was stuck — if I didn’t know how to begin a sentence or end a paragraph — what I needed to do was chug caffeine and stay up late and just keep on grinding it out. But of course that’s the exact wrong thing to do. Now I’m much more willing to take a break. There’s this great line of Einstein’s that “creativity is the residue of wasted time.” In a sense, this research has taught me to make time to waste time. Sometimes it’s the most productive thing you can do. That definitely surprised me and changed the way I work every day.

So, guess which book I’ve added to my reading list?  Yep – Imagine*.

What I love about this quote is that it takes what I’ve intuitively known about childhood and applies it to my life.  A lot of my life is just grunt work – the every day chores that are involved with being a stay at home mom.  But there is a lot of room for creative solutions when it comes to my life.  Creative ways to get chores done.  Creative ways to discipline.  And when it comes to Goat Milk Stuff – that requires lots of creative solutions.

But you know what?  I don’t really have any wasted time.  I do have relaxing time.  Time when I read or watch a movie or snuggle with the children.  But wasted?  I’m not sure I could do that.  I find it very difficult to just sit.  The other day I took the children to a friend’s house to swim in their pool.  We just sat, watched the children swim, and talked.  I admit it, I was itching to do something “productive”.

So I’m going to have to do some thinking about wasting time and what that would look like in my day.  Does it mean that I can’t talk to people?  Read anything? Sleep?  Or does it mean that I just have to spend more time where I don’t HAVE to do anything?

I’m not exactly sure what it does look like.  But I can tell you what it does not look like.  It does not involve me staring at my computer, phone, or iPad.  That I do know.

What about you?  Do you see wasted time as valuable?  or simply wasted?  Do you need more of it?  Or less of it in your life?

PJ

*Amazon Affiliate Link

 

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Nice picture- what a great fort!

    • goatmilkstuff

      It was pretty amazing, the camouflage was perfect. LOL

      PJ

  • Lifesatrip Lfa

    I was just telling my husband last night how when I was a child I used to take strips of paper and glue them to a larger page and act like I was a telegram sender like on the westerns on TV. I was an only child and we lived on a farm.. I made my own fun!

    • goatmilkstuff

      I love it!!  

      PJ

  • Peggy

    Thanks for reminding me that it is alright to just sit.  Sometimes I think we feel so guilty for this little pleasure.

    • goatmilkstuff

      I do too – definitely going to practice it more and not let anybody (including myself) make me feel guilty about it. LOL

      PJ

  • Heather S

    I remember putting on a concert in the basement!

    • goatmilkstuff

      That’s awesome – did you have an audience??

      PJ

      • Heather S

        Yes the neighborhood came out!

  • I see wasted time as valuable, it gives you time to collect your thoughts and to use creativity to entertain yourself. I know I have seen the children come up with many fun activities while they were “bored”

    • goatmilkstuff

      We hardly ever hear the word bored around here.  Usually because there is so much to do, or somebody to play with, or the fact that mom will give them work if they say “I’m bored”. LOL

      PJ

  • Cynth221

    My sister and I put on plays with the boys on our block during the summer.

    • goatmilkstuff

      Good for you!!  I don’t get to do much of that creative play with the children anymore and I do miss it.

      PJ

  • Shaaron

     I love wasted time! Some of the best times were “wasted” moments as a kid. I still love those moments! They are faaaaar to few now-a-days! I have to remind myself to slow down and just breathe!

    • goatmilkstuff

      I’m right there with you!!
      PJ

  • Hannah R

    Love the post!

    • goatmilkstuff

      I’m glad!!
      PJ

  • Ashley J

    I loved wasted time growing up. I would spend hours putting on plays with random objects I found around the house or just daydreaming. Now I find that I can’t sit still and my mind wanders to all the things I should be doing and I can’t enjoy it very much. 

    • goatmilkstuff

      I do the same thing, but I find that instead of just sitting, I reach for my iPad or laptop or even my phone and type or search something!  I want to change that.

      PJ

  • Amy P.

    I also believe wasted time is important!  We’ve had more than usual this summer and it has been wonderful.  We love hanging out with friends at the river playing in the mud and sand.  They can play and create for hours and all the moms just sit back, watch, and visit.  It’s lovely!

    • goatmilkstuff

      We hung out at a friend’s pool for almost 6 hours yesterday.  It was wonderful!!

      PJ

  • Lori Byrd

    I believe wasted time refreshes you in a way to get motivated. I think deep down we all get more satisfaction from getting things done, but we need those wasted times to appreciate it.

    • goatmilkstuff

      That’s a really good way to put it Lori – I think you said it perfectly.

      PJ

  • Jennymartin116

    Everyone once in awhile I do feel my surfing the net time is wasted–but most of the time I feel that the down time is productive–both for myself and for the family as I find answers to things I might have been looking for.  We just came back from vacation–and there was way too much down time–I was itching to get back to everything I needed to do at home!

    • goatmilkstuff

      It always takes me time to be able to “break away” from technology while we’re on vacation.  Then I get addicted to all that free time. LOL

      PJ

  • Connie

    I think most people find it difficult to “waste time.”  But I agree that creativity in my life is usually as a result of a time out of my usual routine of work.  When I change my routine my mind is able to explore new ideas and posibilities.

    • goatmilkstuff

      I think it could hurt us as a nation that we waste so little time and don’t leave time to be creative.

      PJ

  • May82003

    I think that “wasted time” is just that… Wasted. There are plenty of relaxing times and I definitely agree that we could all use more “creative time”! Today’s youth need more opportunities to be creative… Not sit and play nintindo so much… I admire you for being active and letting your children use their creativity…. 🙂

    • goatmilkstuff

      One thing I am adamant about is no computer games or play stations or anything like that in my house.  the children don’t seem to miss it at all.  But I think if we brought it in and limited it, then it would become a point of contention.

      PJ

  • Nicholsjg911

    Very informative.  I never thought of wasted time or creative time that way before.  Even though I have raised my chrildren I thing I can use the information from this artical on my grandchrildren.  Being a grandparent I can spend more time being creative with them.  I find it very hard to just sit around.  I have to be at least reading something.  Judy Nichols

    • goatmilkstuff

      I’m right there with you, Judy!  That’s where all my “wasted” time goes!!

      PJ

  • Debgiro

    i think creative time is great and very creative. But also wasted time is just wasted time. actually, I like both!

    • goatmilkstuff

      I think it comes down to how you define wasted time and what you’re doing with it. 

      PJ

  • Becky Milstead

    I think I used my extra time differently when I was younger.  There wasn’t so much technology to get sucked in to & I did more with creative hobbies.  Now, I think extra time becomes wasted time b/c I sit down at the computer or watch something on tv.  Definitely makes me want to do something more creative tonight instead of just watching a movie.

    • goatmilkstuff

      So did you do something creative???

      PJ

  • Gstidam

    Its great seeing kids being kids.  Now a days they are all busy watching TV and playing video games. All children need to know how to be carefree and how to use their body and mind to create!  Great job PJ! 

    • goatmilkstuff

      I HATE video games and do not allow them in my house. 🙂

      PJ

  • Elizabeth Paschke

    Thanks for this post! I grew up on a farm and I’m sure glad my parents allowed me to be creative!  I learned I didn’t need a lot of money to have fun. 🙂  I was also homeschooled and I plan to homeschool when we (my husband and I) have kids.  I’ll keep this post in mind during the homeschool days!

    • goatmilkstuff

      I love to hear about homeschoolers who desire to homeschool their own children!  Your parents did a good job!!

      PJ

  • Jennifer

    I also believe free time is important in homeschooling. I also try to get everyone outside a lot- fresh air and sunshin are good for the soul

    • goatmilkstuff

      That’s what’s been a bummer about this summer – in many ways it’s been too hot to be outside.  Because I agree with you.  So much better to be outside!!

      PJ

  • one of my favorite quotes on creativity and i heard this a looooong time ago, so  i have no idea where i got it from, but it has stuck with me…. ‘Creativity doesnt happen in the abundence of resources it happens in the limatations’. i have found this to be so true. my best creativity wether probably solving or geting crafty occurs when i need to make do with what i have. In retrospect it makes sense, if i had everything, i wouldn’t need to be creative!

    Amand

    • goatmilkstuff

      Amanda – I think this is exactly right.  And is so important for parents to understand.  Just because you have the money and the finances to supply your children with whatever they want/need, that does not mean that you should give it all to them.

      PJ

  • mistysunrise

    my sister and I used to make forts on the living room furniture and camp out. 🙂

    • goatmilkstuff

      My children do that ALL the time.

      PJ

  • Chris

    I am saddened when parents don’t allow their kids the freedom to be creative because it’s messy. Messy creativity brings so much joy to kids and a lot can be learned in the process. One of my favorite things to do is get a large piece of cardboard at my local warehouse store for free, bring it home and let the kids paint on it.

    • goatmilkstuff

      I love it!  What a great idea!  We have paper on a roll so we roll the whole thing out and let them draw.  It’s such fun.

      PJ

  • I’ve made the most memories, learned the most incredible things, and met the most amazing people during periods of “wasted time”. Planning every minute of every day, working every minute of every day, and doing “something” every minute of every day is not the best way to live, in my opinion.

    • goatmilkstuff

      Agreed!!  If you plan everything, there is no time for the unexpected.  And the unexpected is where awesome things happen.

      PJ

  • I’ve made the most memories, learned the most incredible things, and met the most amazing people during periods of “wasted time”. Planning every minute of every day, working every minute of every day, and doing “something” every minute of every day is not the best way to live, in my opinion. 

  • I definitely need more wasted time! Between work and taking care of the house, I feel I don’t have enough time for the important things- like sitting and playing with dd. We are on vacation right now and I haven’t done much of anything that I need to around the house – instead I have been cuddling with dd and taking naps with her!

    • goatmilkstuff

      Good for you!  That’s what is important!!

      PJ

  • We grew up in PA and had trees and forts and dirt to play in. We also built things in the garage and grew things in the garden. All 4 of us went on to be scientists of one kind or another!

    • goatmilkstuff

      That is so cool to hear!!  I love it. 🙂

      PJ

  • June

    I applaud you.  Your children are not tied to technology but are actually moving, thinking and doing with their hands, mind and body.

    • goatmilkstuff

      Thanks – I think it’s so important and wish more children could live this way!

      PJ

  • Mary Ann Van Atta

    Nice post. I have always been relationship rather than task oriented. My natural tendency is to contemplate and discuss and my weakness has always been the self discipline it takes to be very productive. Needless to say, with 11 children that can be a problem 🙂 Over the last 30 years my challenge has been developing the discipline needed to see my creativity bare fruit. 

    • goatmilkstuff

      Mary Ann – you have a good point.  Like anything, too much of a good thing can be problematic.  The goal is to find the right balance!

      PJ

  • Janice

    As a mom of two teens, and now fostering a 7 year old, all time is valuable.  Whether doing nothing or something.  We try to balance out both.  We really try to resist the urge to indulge in going somewhere when being home enjoying eachothers company is often what the doctor ordered.

    • goatmilkstuff

      I love hanging around my house just playing.  But since we started the business, that is very hard to do because the business always has work to be done.  So we’ve spent more time away from home.  I’m looking forward to the new property where the house is more separated from the business.

      PJ

  • Ellen

    I wish we could all make a point to ‘waste more time’, or at least not be so busy.

    • goatmilkstuff

      Me too, Ellen!

      PJ

  • Eross17

    Without wasted time how can you be creative if your always filling your mind up with the things you have to do? 

    • goatmilkstuff

      And it’s very sad because I think that is the way too many people live.

      PJ

  • Beth

    Children need that kind of time to “waste”. The creative things they do for play helps build all kinds of life skills. Problem solving, conflict resolution, cause and effect – but they don’t realize it, they think they’re just “playing”!

    As a kid I was always outside doing something – even in the 80s we didn’t have video games and all the entertainment kids have now that keeps them cooped up indoors. Fort building was my favorite activity, and I know work as a designer for an architectural company!

    • goatmilkstuff

      Beth!!  That rocks!  I think it is so cool that you could turn something you loved to do as a child into a career.  One of my best friends from high school was the same way – always building things and she is now an architect too!  

      PJ

  • Janbolander

    I love my “wasted time”.  I love going out to our back yard and simply watching the ducks and chickens.  I love sitting in our front yard watching the lightning bugs over the soybean field.  I love not being a slave to the kitchen and saying, “It’s Piggly Wiggly Night. You’re on your own!” 

    • goatmilkstuff

      That is the kind of simple, peaceful living that is foreign to so many people.  And yet it is so important to a healthy life.

      PJ

  • Great insight has come to me during times of doing nothing 😉  Sometimes you hear things you might not normally hear if you’re not focused on doing a certain project.  We certainly amused ourselves differently when we were kids… perhaps differently doesn’t mean better? I hope not. 

    • goatmilkstuff

      That’s a great point!
      PJ

  • T

    I love reading your blog!

    • goatmilkstuff

      Thank you – that means a lot to me!

      PJ

  • Miss Tish

    I notice that a lot of children today and over the past several years do not know what to do with ‘wasted time’ and the young adults are having a difficult time time ‘figuring’ out life. You and Jim are great parents!

  • Sara

    my creative ideas never happen when I’m busy, they always come in a down time, even when I’m sleeping! My husband and I are both artists, and so we want to let our children experiment with their creativity as much as possible. This means saying “yes” a lot, when they want to paint or make something. I find myself tempted to say “no” when I’m stressed out or fearing the mess they will most likely make. But I try to remind myself it’s more beneficial to say yes, and then teach them how to clean up after themselves, the part that’s no fun! I’ve learned a few things along the way…like make sure certain things are out of reach that I need an extra dose of patience, like GLITTER.
     

  • Very interesting.
    I like wasting time with my goat and rabbit and building forts and swings☺

    • goatmilkstuff

      I LOVE wasting time with our goats!!

      PJ

  • NWade

    I think children are happier and more confident when allowed to explore their creative side, not to mention being more relaxed, allowing for laughter and lots of fun.  Good for grownups too!

    • goatmilkstuff

      You’re right, it is good for grown ups too!  So why is it so hard to make it happen?!?

      PJ

  • goatmilkstuff

    Thanks, Tish!  I agree with your assessment of the children today completely.  It makes me very sad. 🙁

    PJ

  • goatmilkstuff

    I think glitter was created just to torment mothers. LOL  That stuff can be a menace in the hands of a toddler! (And yes, I know that from experience).  But you’re absolutely right, it is so easy to say no, good for you for saying yes so often!

    PJ

  • Farmlady162

    We recently bought a dining set that came packed in a HUGE cardboard box. I left the room for a moment, and when I came back, I was surprised and delighted to discover my 16-year old son’s legs sticking out of one end of the box. He was just lying in there quietly enjoying the box…lol. Our family has always encouraged creativity, and it was kinda nice to see that it’s still around even after all these years!