Akila Richards – on the importance of rest for creativity and writing

May 22, 2024

This blog features guest writer Akila Richards, who is leading THE REST EXPERIENCE as part of our July 2024 well-being events for writers, Draw Breath.

THE REST EXPERIENCE is a creative response to an exploitative system that was born at the time to the killing of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter and Covid. It is an activist and artistic resistance, a long term practice to counter a culture where we are never enough, exhausted and robbed of our humanity and connection to ourselves. THE REST EXPERIENCE believes that creating restful encounters internally and externally is a necessary disruption – to re-align with our purpose in imaginative and intentional ways, to remember our wholeness in every aspect of our lives. Creative writing in combination with dreaming, resting, music and reflection is to create a joyful and explorative space for all genres of writers and artists.

‘The original dreamers have dreamt us and dreamt the ones after us and the next generation for a future harvest, dressed in an equal future, in a world where they and their work mattered. Where we witness ins sound and words.’

– Extract of a poetic meditation responding to Barbara Walker’s exhibition for Turner Prize – acknowledging the Windrush Generation by Akila Richards


So what could THE REST EXPERIENCE mean for a writer, poet, spoken word/artist?

Sometimes although the writing is good, it does not sit right despite re-writes and edits. Taking a step back, allowing it to marinate and create distance to ruminate is essential. Rest creates understanding and time to think, fills the gaps to mull it over and lets things grow in what needs to be written. It may be just a tweak here and there that has a profound impact or a total overhaul that appeared in the space of rest. 

Another useful rest practice is at the beginning of a new writing piece, a story, a novel and to take time and space in what needs to be conveyed, what the heart of the story is. It helps order thoughts, structure, style of writing, choice of characters, place and narrative. It firms up the milestones and arch of the story or distils the poem to perfection. The same is useful at the completion of writing before coming back to editing and rewrites, especially for longer materials.

Sometimes writing needs to be completely side stepped in order to  engage in rest as a joyful practice – travel, singing, walking, praying, reading, socialising, lying down, doing nothing to realign and mentally release. It benefits intensive writers to disengage and return refreshed with different angles to their writing. 

The above are just a few examples that invite small and bigger ways to pause, find stillness, and joy and let the imagination flourish. Resting while writing keeps us focused and powerfully engaged. I think imagining and dreaming is one of the most effective ways in which to create worlds and stories whether speculative or rooted in this reality. Our writing connects the reader to new life experiences and imagination. When we are rested we are awake and able to create wholistically. We know writers and poets not only speak to the times we live in, but imagine a reality we could live that is seemingly impossible and outside the norm. I imagine that enslaved people dreamed that one day they could live like we do now. What a dream, what a reality. Rest unravels us to a human pace and back to humanity. Don’t allow taking rest to guilt trip you, or think that it is a luxury, needs to be deserved and is for the lazy. That is the trap. Rest creates time which is not linear anyway, which is the paradox. Lay your good self down, take time out, stare out the window, sleep an extra day and enter the portal and download your dream and imagination to be and write. 

I think it is vital that we rest mentally, physically and emotionally to be able to continue writing well and expand our capacity to improve our writing. Writers source deeply and research extensively to bring their thoughts and narrative to the page or stage. This can be particularly affecting when it originates from a lived experience, the personal and global history that is linked with othering, displacement, oppression and trauma. Mining this information requires recovery and time to rest. It provides space to digest and recognise the impact, gain perspectives and insights to include in the writing. 

Having explored THE REST EXPERIENCE from my residency at Brighton Dome during Covid, the Killing of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, the creation of the programme became incredibly precious to me. Deeply informed by Tricia Hearsey, the Nap Bishop from the Nap Ministry who states that rest is a portal to a new reality. I was not only inspired to create a range of ways to use THE REST EXPERIENCE to recover from the impact of the last two years, but realised that it became an essential practice to nurture my humanity, imagination and ideas as a writer. Since the residency, I’ve had several opportunities to use this newly found creative practice to benefit collectively for community, artists and writers, in indoor and outdoor settings. Using nature and landscape, theatre and creative spaces, reclaim and connect our dreaming and vision as well as integrate a range of approaches to explore, reflect and create new writing.  

I have been able to use THE REST EXPERIENCE at Brighton and Bloomsbury Festivals, to lay down and rest on beautiful grounds, whilst reciting a poetic meditation or listening to ‘The Uses Of The Erotic’ by Audrey Lorde followed by discussions and writing exercises in gardens and lawns. The REST EXPERIENCE has also supported community projects, young vulnerable people and a public programme ‘Eastbourne Alive’ for the recent Turner Prize 2024 at Towner. I was able to offer bespoke creative writing experiences to meet a range of needs,  whether as a response to the Turner Prize exhibition, or writers who are carers,  mixed heritage families, from the global majority or LGBTQ background, artists with a range of disciplines and health challenges or with neurodiverse abilities. Most sessions include designed poetic meditations, rest cards, writing prompts, music, reflections, discussions, sound baths, creative expressions and craft. I also experimented with online experiences where technology can enhance the encounters. It enabled me to develop a range of tools and approaches that benefit participants to engage and explore rest, differences and similarities to develop a practice alongside and for their writing. 

THE REST EXPERIENCE is a collective endeavour that starts with you and me and connects us meaningfully as humans and writers, poets and artists. 

‘Perhaps when they laboured for a country that calls itself their mother and abandons them when they are spent – it is now our dream and word  that keeps them and us going.’   

Extract of a poetic meditation responding to Barbara Walker’s exhibition for Turner Prize – acknowledging the Windrush Generation by Akila Richards 


The Rest Experience with Akila Richards is included in our new series of well-being events for writers, Draw Breath. Join us throughout July 2024 in Brighton, Eastbourne and online. See all events in this series.