Posted on April 30, 2022
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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Posted on February 26, 2022
I had intended to set goals at the beginning of the year but honestly, I was feeling so terrible that I couldn’t even see twenty-four hours ahead, let alone six months or a year. So I decided to shelve the setting of goals until I felt a bit more… like myself, I guess. I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to anything too… much just yet, given that I’m barely back on my feet (something that still feels debatable some days). It’s hard to plan ahead. So, I thought I’d split this post into two this year: goals for the first six months and then goals for the second. Maybe. It does feel a bit like I’m just going through the motions but maybe that’s just what I need to do right now.
GET MY MENTAL HEALTH STABILISED – Between the pandemic stuff I was already carrying around, the burnout post-MA, the disaster that was the ADHD medication, and the anxiety induced breakdown I had at the end of January (plus having been unable to see my therapist pretty much since last May), I’m one big mess. I’ve started the Moclobemide but it still feels too early to say for sure whether or not it’s the right thing. I’m starting to write again though, which is a good sign. Hopefully I’ll be back at therapy in the not too distant future, plus there are some other options for support to consider. I just feel like, until I get my head sorted – or at least a bit more sorted – my life is on hold and I hate it. I can’t have a real life until there’s some resolution here.
GET BACK TO SWIMMING – I haven’t been very mobile at all over the last few months, given how bad my mental and physical health has been, and I’m definitely feeling it. My chronic pain over the last couple of weeks has been awful – back to the levels it was last summer – and now that I actually feel able to leave the house, I really want to get back to swimming and to my hydrotherapy exercises. I want to get fitter and I want to get stronger; the hope is that, the stronger my body is, the better my life with hEDS will be.
RELEASE NEW MUSIC – I’m so desperate (in a good way) to release new music. It’s been so long since the Honest EP came out and even longer since I wrote the songs. So much has changed since then, for me as person and as a songwriter. I am working on an album and that’s my real passion project but it is going to take time and I don’t want to keep anyone waiting that long. Hell, I don’t want to wait that long. So I am working on music to release before the album and while it’s taking a bit longer because of the last few months, it is happening and it is coming.
I don’t have an exact deadline for these goals, especially since mental and physical health don’t always adhere to any schedule you set for yourself. But I’m hoping that I can do these things – and perhaps more – within the first half of the year. Then, maybe, I can set a new series of goals that are a bit more exciting and ambitious once I’m feeling a bit more solid.
Category: adhd, anxiety, covid-19 pandemic, depression, heds, medication, mental health, music, therapy, treatment, writing Tagged: 2022, adhd, antidepressants, anxiety, chronic pain, depression, eds, exercise, goals, heds, honest ep, hydrotherapy, joint pain, lauren alex hooper, medication, mental health, mental illness, music, new music, new years resolution, new years resolutions, pain management, physical health, setting goals, singer, singersongwriter, swimming, therapy
Posted on January 1, 2022
In hindsight, I don’t really know what I was thinking, setting goals when I had no idea what the year was going to look like. I’m not really surprised that I haven’t done as well as I would’ve liked, had the year been a normal year. But it wasn’t a normal year and I try to remember that when I feel myself getting stressed.
FIND A RHYTHM IN THERAPY AGAIN – This has been a tricky one. For various reasons, my therapy was fairly erratic for the first half of the year and then I wasn’t going at all until just a few weeks ago. A lot has happened and a lot has changed and going back is hard; it feels like I’m learning how to do therapy all over again. But we’ve worked through tough periods before. There’s no reason why we can’t figure out this one too.
PROGRESS WITH MY INVISIBLE BRACES – Okay, I officially failed at this. I’ve actually slipped backwards, going back to an earlier mold. It was just that, with everything going on, sleeping was the one time where I didn’t feel some sort of sensory overwhelm and I was so reluctant to lose that one safe space. I have worn it a little but not enough so I need to figure out a more manageable way to wear it.
WORK ON MY CORE – This has been a tricky one. Since the lockdown ended, I’ve been swimming as much as I can (and feel able to depending on various things: mental health, COVID numbers, etc) and I do feel like it’s helped, although it doesn’t feel like the pain mirrors how much or how little swimming I’m doing. Eleven months after the Hydrotherapy referral, I got a Physiotherapy appointment which resulted in them referring me to Hydrotherapy and a month or so later, I finally got a Hydrotherapy session. I’ve been doing the exercises by myself and I have a follow up appointment in the new year to make sure everything’s happening as it should. It’s too soon to know what effect it’s having but hopefully it’ll help with some of the problems caused by my EDS.
COMPLETE MY MAJOR REPERTOIRE PROJECT – I did it! It was hard work and utterly exhausting and, by the end, I was working twelve (or more) hours a day but I absolutely loved it. I loved being totally absorbed by one project and just writing as many songs for it as possible. I did struggle to balance what I wanted to do with the project with what I needed to do for the grade (although it’s true that trying to meet that criteria did result in it being a better project) but I had a fantastic supervisor, who was passionate and knowledgeable about a lot of the same things as me and who was also neurodivergent, which I think made a big difference when it came to tackling problems and her general support; my project was better because of her help. The day of my final presentation was a bit anti-climactic after everything and suddenly it was all over. But I’m so proud of the work I did, the many songs I wrote, and the mark I achieved, my highest out of every module. I’m so relieved, so happy, so proud, and so grateful to everyone who helped me get there. It was the best part of this year, easily.
FINISH MY MASTERS DEGREE – I still kind of can’t believe that I did this, given everything over the last couple of years. It’s so weird to look back at the beginning of the Masters in late 2019, knowing what I do now. But I did it: I completed my Masters Degree in Songwriting. During a global pandemic no less. But despite that, it was still an amazing experience; I met a lot of incredible people, I did a lot of work that I’m so proud of, and I got so much out of it. I’m so proud of my final project in particular and it was amazing to get such a high grade, as well as the Outstanding Student Award at graduation; that meant so much to me after everything that went in to getting the degree. And while I am excited for what comes next, I’m also really, really sad that it’s over; that’s the end of my education at ICMP and I don’t want my time there to be officially over. I loved my BA but doing an MA was the best thing I’ve ever done. It was beyond difficult and there were times when I hated it but it was an amazing experience and I’m so proud of myself and the work I did.
MAKE SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS IN CATCHING UP WITH MY DIARY – Yeah, no, I did not manage this. I’m barely managing to keep up, let alone clean up the messy notes I’ve been keeping over the last two years. My diary writing is in a state of chaos right now. It takes up so much time and causes me so much anxiety but I can’t stop; my OCD won’t let me. So I’m just keeping on keeping on; I don’t know what else to do.
WORK ON NOT COMPARING MYSELF TO OTHERS, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO MUSIC – I think it’s fair to say that this is probably something I’ll be working on for the rest of my life; it’s not something that will ever be done, complete. I’m not sure if I’d say I’ve made progress with this but I do think I’ve learned a lot about myself and my insecurities. Two big factors that affect those insecurities are my mental health and how much I’m writing. When my mental health is good and I’m doing a solid amount of writing, I feel more comfortable and confident in myself and what other people are doing doesn’t feel scary or upsetting; they feel inspiring and exciting. But when my mental health is bad – and thus, my ability to write disappears – everything feels just too much. So most of the year was great, apart from a few dips, but my mental health hasn’t been great over the last two months – or in other words, completely fucking awful – so that’s what I’ve been focussed on: trying to make that better.
FIND MY NEXT PROJECT – This goal kind of makes me laugh now. To think I wanted to find my next project and now I have more projects than I know what to do with. It’s kind of stressful, trying to manage so many things at once, but it’s also wonderful to have so many things that I’m excited about. They’re all in process right now and I don’t know how they’re going to turn out so I don’t want to say anything yet, but I definitely found my next project.
This year has been a hell of a year for many reasons and while there were many negative surprises, there were also positive ones; those just aren’t always visible in the review of goals set at the beginning of the year. I’m really proud of a lot of things from the last twelve months and, given everything that’s happened, I’m actually kind of impressed that I was able to complete any of these goals at all. So I’m trying to focus on that.
Category: about me, covid-19 pandemic, depression, emotions, heds, identity, mental health, music, ocd, therapy, treatment, university, writing Tagged: 2020, anxiety, comparing, comparing myself, comparison anxiety, depression, diary, diary writing, eds, final project, goals, heds, hydrotherapy, hypermobile ehlers danlos syndrome, hypermobility, independent artist, invisible braces, journal, journaling, masters degree, masters degree in songwriting, memory hoarding, mental health, mental illness, music, new years resolution, new years resolutions, obsessive compulsive disorder, ocd, pandemic, pandemic 2020, physiotherapy, plans, reflection, self confidence, self esteem, songwriter, songwriting, therapy, university
Hi! I’m Lauren Alex Hooper. Welcome to my little blog! I write about living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD (Inattentive Type), and Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), as well as several mental health issues.
I’m a singer-songwriter (it’s my biggest special interest and I have both a BA and MA in songwriting) so I’ll probably write a bit about that too.
My first single, ‘Invisible,’ is on all platforms, with all proceeds going to Young Minds.
My debut EP, Honest, is available on all platforms, with a limited physical run at Resident Music in Brighton.
I’m currently working on an album about my experiences as an autistic woman.