Self Care For Creative People

I don’t know about you other creative types, but my creativity really relies on my life being as balanced and healthy as possible. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, burned out, stressed, and so on, my inspiration and motivation become a lot harder to access and translate into something tangible – or as tangible as a song can be. So I’m learning that it’s really important for me to have strategies to manage those feelings in order to stay open to inspiration and to keep creating.

All of the more general self care suggestions – like taking care of your physical and mental health (eating and sleeping well, spending time outside, exercising, socialise, talk to someone if you’re going through a difficult time, doing things simply for fun, and so on) – still apply but I wanted to create a list aimed more specifically at creative people or people that have creative jobs. I’m coming at this list as a songwriter but hopefully it’ll be applicable to all sorts of creative people and creative pursuits.

Create a schedule – We’ve all had those wonderful moments where inspiration has struck and we just have to write or draw or sing the thing right then and there but most people creating on a consistent basis know that it’s about much more than the lightning strikes of inspiration. It’s about putting in the work. But it’s very easy to get carried away and just work for hours and hours on end so, to avoid getting burnt out, it’s important to set working hours (with breaks!) and try to stick to them. Planning what you want to achieve each day can also be a useful tool. It’s not an approach that works for everyone but it’s definitely worth trying (and I mean really trying) because there’re so many variables that you can tweak. For example, what time of day are you most creative? What time of day are you most productive? Do you work better in long or short stints? All of these things need to be considered and potentially experimented with when creating a schedule for yourself.

Organise all your creative projects – It’s not the most glamorous of tasks but creating some sort of order to your projects can be really helpful. I’m all for exhilarating chaos when it comes to imagining and experimenting but when you take a step back and look at the different things you’re working on, I think a sense of order and clarity can help you be more productive, help you focus, and also switch off when you need some space to breathe. Plus it can save you hours when you just want to find that one specific thing to add to whatever you’re working on. And who knows what you’ll find in the process: a project you loved but had to sideline because of other commitments, an idea that you loved but forgot about because you were in the middle of working on something else… who knows what you’ll find?

Consume different types of media – Watching films and TV shows, listening to music and podcasts, reading books, going to see art and installations… it all feeds our creative brains and you never know what will spark your next idea. I’ve fallen in love with writing from the point of view of fictional characters during the pandemic as a result of watching more films and TV series; I used to find it really uncomfortable but now I love the challenge it presents.

Learn about another creative – Whether they work in your field or another, learning about another creative – what inspired them, how they approached their work, etc – and trying out their practices and methods could inspire a new piece of work or even an evolution in your own creative approach. Big or small, it could create some really interesting, fresh, and inspiring results.

Try a different creative pursuit – Sometimes trying a different form of art can just shake things up a bit and refresh your approach to your primary form of creativity, if you have one that is. But it can just get you looking at things differently. It doesn’t have to be wildly different to what you do normally – I write poetry when I get stuck writing songs because it feels less restrictive – but it can just get your brain looking at what you do from a new angle or, if you want to be more ambitious and try something completely new, it can change the way you look at your art and turn your approach on its head.

Make sure to move – If your form of creativity is very stationary, movement and exercise are important to build into your day, even if it’s just a few circuits of the room you’re working in. It keeps the blood flowing and your muscles from getting stiff but it also – especially if you’re going somewhere to exercise like the park, the gym, or a pool – gets us out of our heads, breaking any loops or unhelpful thought processes. And, more often than not, our brains keep working in the background and it’s quite possible that a new idea will pop up while we’re taking a break.

Disconnect for a bit – Turn off your phone. Turn off your laptop. Get away from the internet. Get lost in your own little world for a bit where the only voice that matters is yours, where there aren’t any critics or competition. Recenter yourself. Make sure you love what you’re working on and that you know why you’re making it. You’ll want (and need) to talk to other people later but make sure you’re solid in yourself first.

Engage in opposite action – I learned the technique of taking opposite action very early on in therapy. Sometimes, to avoid feeling stuck or anxious or depressed, we have to do the opposite of what we feel like doing and break the cycle: go out if we feel like staying in, take some time alone if we like to always be busy, write or draw or dance anyway even if you don’t feel like it, and so on. As I said, my creativity is very closely linked with my mental health so the better I take care of my mental health, the more creative I feel able to be.

Give yourself permission to let go – Sometimes a project just isn’t meant to be. Maybe it just won’t translate into something tangible or maybe it just isn’t ending up the way you intend it to but sometimes, you have to let a project go. It’s tempting to want to obsess over a piece of work until it’s perfect but as we all know, perfect doesn’t really exist. Sometimes a project just needs more time, to go on the back-burner for a bit, but sometimes giving up is the right thing. It allows us to move onto something new.

Take a break from creating – Sometimes we get burned out, sometimes life gets in the way… whatever the reason, sometimes we have to take a break from creating. But if that’s the case, it’s important to remember that our ability to create doesn’t vanish, as much as it may feel like that sometimes. It’s a skill we nurture and practice and taking a break for a little bit won’t cause it to disappear. But consistently creating can be emotionally and physically taxing so taking a break isn’t a bad thing; we all need to recharge now and then. And no doubt your brain will keep working on things in your subconscious.

Try not to beat yourself up – This is definitely easier said than done, I know, but try to be kind to yourself while you’re creating and especially when you’re struggling to create. The beautiful thing about creating things is that you never know what’s going to happen next and while that can be scary, it can also be freeing. Try to let it be freeing.

I’m definitely not perfect when it comes to self care. I can get really fixated on a project and forget to look after myself and my ongoing struggle with my mental health can result in me pushing myself far too hard but I’m learning and I’m trying, which is one of the reasons for this post. I want to be better; I want to be more creative and more productive and to go about it in a way that doesn’t put me under ridiculous amounts of pressure or cause me distressing levels of anxiety. But self care is a tool box of sorts and hopefully with each skill I learn, I add to that tool box and become better at managing my life as a creative person.

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