Taking Breaks and Creative Thinking

Some of the fine legs of Polygon Treehouse, yes those are Donkey Kong shoes!

Some of the fine legs of Polygon Treehouse, yes those are Donkey Kong shoes!

I thought I’d sit down to write a blog about something that’s not only quite important, but also super useful creatively AND good for you, so it checks all the boxes.

I have lost count of the amount of times in my career when I’ve been trying to solve a specific problem (creative or technical, take your pick) and I’ve been stumped and hit a brick wall. I’d be sat at my desk racking my noodle, trying to come up with an elegant solution and be coming up blank again and again.

Time has taught me the solution over and over again,  simply take a break.

There is something weird in the brain (might just be my brain but go with me here) where, when not directly confronted with solving a problem, it relaxes and comes up with the ideal solution you’ve been straining to arrive at whilst you’re making sushi, riding a pony or having a soak in the tub.

I find that these days (actually even in the later stages of my time as an Art Director at Sony this was true) I tend to jump around quite of few of the ‘traditional’ gamedev disciplines, from Art and Animation, to Design and bisnis stuff in my day to day work.

Low-budget reboot of 'Murder She Wrote'

Low-budget reboot of 'Murder She Wrote'

These 'discipline switches' can also be good to refresh your brain, engaging different parts of it to different ends. It’s like a palette cleanser before the next course (something I’ve never tried myself but they talk about it on Masterchef quite a lot).

However these discipline switches are good to mix up your day to day work but it's not really a break per se. there is another valuable aspect of taking a break and that’s getting away from your desk. Whether it’s writing a blog in the park (like I’m doing now) or going for a run.

Where possible we like to get out from behind our desks and work in a different space, our ‘Story Days’ have been a good example of this. We all meet up in Cambridge in a nice coffee shop and knock the kinks out of Röki’s narrative.

A lovely Cambridge pub, on of the many venues for one of our 'Story Days' (also proof that Team Röki are not vampires)

A lovely Cambridge pub, on of the many venues for one of our 'Story Days' (also proof that Team Röki are not vampires)

Running is something I personally also find super useful, and I’m talking aside from countering my love of pies to stop me ballooning into late-era Orson Welles. For me it also has the remarkable effect of putting things into proper perspective. I think there must be something about the physical nature of exercising that wakes up the animal brain and tells your human brain to sort itself out, some things that you thought were of great important or problematic realign into their correct perspective. As a younger man (notice I say younger as I’m not ready to amid I’m not a young mans still) I was quite an anxious person, for a number of reasons, but to the point I needed medication for a number of years.  I still have an that innate disposition, but it doesn’t bother me so much anymore, hard to know exactly why (and I try not to overthink it) but running over the years has definitely helped to balance my books.


Obviously everyone’s brain is wired in a different way but for me personally I find taking breaks, in whatever form, to be really important to my productivity. It might sound a bit counter intuitive; taking time out from work resulting in actually being more productive but it definitely proves out that way for me.

Overworking and flogging yourself is not big or clever, it’s not a badge of honor and no-one is impressed (at least I’m not, can’t speak for everyone!)

Anyway, I digress. The point is do not underestimate the value of taking a break in the creative process. Don’t try and slog it out, don’t try to brute force a solution. Take some time, you’ll probably find the solution taps you on the shoulder.

And on that bombshell I'm taking my own advice and going off on holiday.

Catch you in a few weeks!

Cheers, Alex

Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou