Afternoon Practices to Cultivate Creativity

“As for me, I shall call upon God, And the LORD will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, And He will hear my voice.” - Psalms 55:17

Afternoons are often wedged between workloads. We make much of morning matters or evening events, but afternoons bear little significance besides lunch meetings, social media binges, or mere transitions. Most notably, afternoons beget a notorious “midday slump.”

For the early-morning or late-night creative, this can spawn a daily creative slump. Our brain function narrows, our creative muscles fatigue, and we lose momentum. But could our afternoons be different? What if they served our souls in an essential way, awakened and incited fresh vision, or merely mattered altogether?

The omnipresent Creator does not share our 8-hour workday priorities. In scripture, afternoons mark moments of God encountering and engaging with people. Quite memorably, Jesus chooses a sweltering Samarian afternoon to meet with a woman at Jacob’s well. Their extraordinary midday encounter can revive our own afternoon practices.

The Midday Well

Hiding herself from the town, the shunned woman bears noontime heat as she draws water from the well—alone. “Give me a drink,” Jesus says. He slices through ethnic, gender and religious barriers in an average afternoon interaction. In her shock, he shares with her that he has water of his own: living water.

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

The remainder of the story is breathtaking. Jesus addresses her deeper thirsts, inviting her into freedom from toxic relational patterns. She is reborn from a broken woman to a well herself, spilling over with living water. She returns to the town she once hid from, inviting them all to receive Jesus’ living water. And they do.

Imagine that occurring at your Tuesday afternoon water cooler conversation. It sounds far-fetched, but the same midday well is available for us. By afternoon, we’ve already accumulated clutter, expended energy, and collided with walls. But the well is where we are revived.

The midday well is a place for replenishment, confession, and redirection. It is where we are reminded of God’s goodness, wooed into his company, and repaired amidst our racing world. It is as vital as our morning altar or evening reflection—brimming with the life we long for.

We may not always unearth a profound experience, but by making the afternoon trek to the well day after day, we remind our bodies and souls of our thirst that is easily forgotten. And in faith, we choose to receive Jesus’ living water. When we do, afternoons become an unforeseen space for our spiritual health, daily discovery, and creative flourishing.

Unconventional Afternoon Practices

As creatives, we are quick to assume that our creative work is of our own thinking and doing. And we get trapped in subsequent feelings of failure, comparison, and hopelessness. But our making is a reflection of God’s creativity; our work is uniquely sourced and rooted in His own creative doing. Returning to the midday well is returning to our roots. It is creatively humbling, anointing, and replenishing.

Good afternoon practices are often unconventional—but nonetheless formational. In taking 10 or 20 minutes in prayer, reflection, or scripture to visit the midday well, we address our thirst and absorb living water. In John 1, the earliest disciples simply spend one afternoon with Jesus—and their lives are never the same. Holding conversation, sharing water, or inhaling breath with God is not ordinary. These moments jolt us into new creative vision.

Later in the story of the woman at the well, Jesus tells his disciples to “lift up your eyes and see the fields are ripe for harvest.” They are too concerned with daily checklist items to see the glorious scene of townspeople, thirsty for living water, before them. In our afternoon blur, we must make unconventional choices to see shrouded splendor around us.

Jesus’ advice to “lift up your eyes” may be particularly compelling after a morning of staring at screens. Soak in sunlight, sample surrounding colors, slowly savor a strawberry’s sweetness without thinking of anything else. Splice in time for creative activity—drawing anything without judgment or an eraser. Pen a haiku, ponder shapes of clouds, or practice deep-breathing. Chat with the homeless man outside your office, share spiritual conversation with your coworker, or retreat to silence and solitude. In faithfully pursuing the atypical afternoon practice, we will find living water we never anticipated.

Words—Daniel Sunkari
Photos—Bryan Ye-Chung