I was at a conference recently where a very eminent (and sporting) author agreed to write and perform a poem on a topic chosen by mopping up inspiration the audience — within 30 minutes.

“Oh,” she wailed to me backstage, panicked by her daring. “If only I had a floor to mop.”

Neuroscience confirms what creatives of all kinds have always known: the best ideas surface more often during off-time (Creative Rest) and down-time (Creative Play) than desk-time (Creative Work).

Creative rest can be daydreaming, taking a nap, mulling … or mopping.

Research shows that a good flow of quality ideas is also nurtured by particular kinds of repetitive, rhythmical, physical activities like aerobic exercise (jogging, walking, swimming) — or, as for our panicking poet, housework.

Such periods generate more and better ideas if we get intentional around them: resishing the contrast and recognising its value, rather than thinking we should still be at the desk, or doing something more “productive”.

Creative Work, Creative Rest and Creative Play are all equal partners in the act of conscious creation, just as your right foot, left foot and pelvic joints are equal partners in the act of walking. Over emphasis on any one over the other and we’ll soon be limping and faltering.