Dear creatives, it's time to join a movement for rest
A view from Alex Grieve and Adrian Rossi

Dear creatives, it's time to join a movement for rest

After all, rest is not a tax on creativity but an investment in it.

The world has become Oliver.

Not the cherubic, doe-eyed innocent we remember from the eponymous film.

But rather an amped-up, wild-eyed, little shit of an Oliver who covers our faces in speckles of spit as he screams at us: I want more, more, more, more, more.

It’s not the world’s fault.

Homo sapiens are, and always have been, junkies.

We crave the fix of stories.

Until very recent times, we have been able to control that addiction.

The places we went to score our stories were relatively limited: the campfire, the art gallery, the library, the radio, the TV set, the cinema and Uncle Cedric who, despite his wandering hands, spun a mesmeric tale.

But since the explosion of the internet, we can now get any story, any time, any way we want. Instantly. For free. 

So, yes – Houston, we have a problem.

And the problem is in order to satisfy that insatiable demand for stories, some poor mug has to create them. 

Ten times as quickly for ten times less money.

And in our small sector of the storytelling industry – advertising – those poor mugs are the creatives.

We think we speak for everyone when we say it’s all beginning to get a bit overwhelming. 

Whatever beyond tired is, we’re that.

Not waving, but drowning. 

But we all love a good problem, right? Let’s get solving.

Logic would suggest that the way to extract maximum productivity from creatives is to work them harder and longer.

Logic also suggested Brexit would never happen.

The Millennium Bug would.

And that Emile Heskey would, eventually, come good.

Logic is a bit of a bellend.

What we need to do is work less. 

What we need to do is fucking REST.

Not because we’re work-shy fops. Or Luddites who fail to grasp that the world has changed. But because it makes financial sense.

It’s the economics, stupid.

More rest = more creativity = more famous work = more £ for clients = more £ for agencies.

Quite literally: more for less.

In the tiny windows of time we get to read books, two have informed.

The first is Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. In it, he looks at the routines of the world’s most creative thinkers. Einstein, Stravinsky, Murakami, Lynch… And though they all work in different ways at different times, one thing is constant. And it’s not just the drinking. None of them engage in deep work for more than four hours.

Because, basically, it’s impossible. 

After four hours, creativity crashes. After four hours, the brain needs – you guessed it – a rest.

Which leads us to the second book, Rest by Stanford University boffin Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Citing the latest research from neuropsychology, Pang proves how rest allows us to reconnect with the deepest part of ourselves from where creativity, resilience and inspiration come.

Rest is not a tax on creativity but an investment in it.

And the thing is, anyone whose job is to be faced by the terror of the blank white page instinctively knows this.

That’s why we get grumpy. 

We’re not afraid of hard work. 

We’re afraid of not being able to perform at our best. 

People often declare this is the most exciting time ever to be working in advertising.

And maybe it is.

But the potential of what we could do is not being reflected by what we are doing.

The work is not getting better. 

It’s not through lack of trying, it’s because we are trying too hard.

Our brains are hurting and it’s hurting the work.

It’s time to join a movement. One that promotes rest. 

More holidays, more flexible working; less email after-hours, less hours. 

One that rewards a 90-hour week not with a badge of honour but a dunce’s cap.

"Rest," Pang says, "is not something the world gives us… you have to take it… and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it from you."

Our job as creative leaders is to be bouncers at the door of Club Rest. 

Inside, there’s no rave music and very little dancing. People are reading and playing peek-a-boo with their kids and whittling sticks and thinking about setting up a sausage company.

And tomorrow, rested, their neurons will light up like a New Year’s Eve firework display instead of fizzing, pathetically, like a budget sparkler in the rain.

If we believe in the power of creativity to power our client’s business, then it is beholden upon us as an industry to protect and nurture that creativity.

We need to work hard at not working.


Right now.

Just after we’ve spent a bit of time looking out of the window.

The case for rest, rests.

Alex Grieve and Adrian Rossi are executive creative directors at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO