How Not Creating On Shabbos Helps Me Be Creative

Since I’m a creative person, it would be understandable to think that Shabbos would be a frustrating day for me. After all, I can’t write, can’t play music, can’t record an idea for a song or a piece of writing on my phone. I can’t create.

But that’s exactly why Shabbos is amazing. Because for twenty-five hours I have zero pressure to be tangibly creative. I don’t feel guilty about not making time to practice. I don’t feel the strain of all the unfinished or unstarted projects. There are no deadlines that loom. No rehearsals I need to make arrangements for. 

It is, at times, a relief.

Thank G-d, my life is gloriously busy. The obligations I have as a mother and wife and community member occupy a substantial amount of my time. Not just my time, but my mind, my heart, seemingly every last drop of my energy.

On the one hand, it takes a certain level of commitment to prioritize creativity, and there have been long stretches where I was focused mostly on just getting something out there without taking the time to sit down and actually contemplate what I was creating.

This was, in part, because, I cannot help myself. I cannot imagine a life without creating, and even though, objectively, I have no time for it, I cannot stop creating. I squeeze it into every possible crack and crevice of my day, and, for the most part, it works.

There are two parts of the creative process that I routinely neglect. The first is the regular consumption of art. I do not read nearly as often as I should. I also do not seek out and listen to new music practically ever. I barely listen to the music I already own.

The second part I neglect is the necessary stillness. The stillness that I need in order to have a clear enough mind to be receptive to new ideas. 

I don’t have stillness during the week. I have lists and pressures and responsibilities and dinner and laundry and crumb-covered carpets that beg to be vacuumed. I am doing two or three things at once, and when there is even a little bit of down time, I instantaneously fill that space by looking at my phone. 

But Shabbos, oh Shabbos. That’s when time stands still. That’s when the metaphorical treadmill is unplugged and I can sit on the couch with my children and read four or five or more chapters of a Roald Dahl story because, really, there is nothing else I need to do.

I move more slowly, face less distractions, have more time to read and chill without the nagging feeling that I should be doing something else, something more responsible.

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Part of being so frenetically busy is that I haven’t been picking up the magazines I usually buy in honor of Shabbos. As a result, I have been forced to read some books I’ve been avoiding. The ones that prompt me to think, that are not just light reading or engagingly well-crafted stories, but ones that tap into the depths of my soul and force me to think, not just feel.

It has been glorious.

You know what else has been glorious? Not reading anything. Just sitting. Talking with my husband. Talking with my kids. Not talking at all. Just thinking.

Last Shabbos, at shalosh seudas, I mentioned to my husband that I was thinking about this topic, about how as a creative person I don’t create at all on Shabbos. He pointed out that G-d, the ultimate Creator, also didn’t create on Shabbos.

That is, kind of, a main point of Shabbos. Right? I listen to it every Friday night :

The sixth day. So the heavens and the earth were finished, with all their complement. On the seventh day, G-d had completed His work which He had undertaken, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had been doing. Then G-d blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He ceased from all His creative work, which G-d had brought into being to fulfill its purpose.

Since we are supposed to emulate G-d, to do our imperfect best to model ourselves after absolute perfection, it makes sense that we should take this day to not create. That not creating, that making space for this lack of creation, is actually a holy thing.

By doing so, I am connecting to the Divine, to eternity, to the vast expanse of generations before me and after me. It is an infusion of spirit which I cannot fully express.

Even though I am not actively creating for those twenty-five hours, I am preparing the way and making the space for future creations to come forth. This is a place for ideas to be born, to roll around in my mind, in my heart, in my conversations, to be mulled over and to marinate in the holiness of the day.

Some of those ideas will not be brought to fruition. Some sparks of inspiration will not become something shareable. But when I am able to truly connect, to be mindful of the holiness of the day, I feel that anything I do create during the mundanity of the week will be blessed by the sanctity of abstaining from creating on Shabbos.