Is it time for a creative reset?
Busy, busy, busy – it’s an affliction that most of us wear as a badge of pride. “I’m so busy!” or “I’m exhausted!” I’ve heard myself say over and over – as if it meant that I was more valuable, in demand or useful. If I’m that run down, then I must be really important or exceptional. Right? Wrong. It hit me hard more than a year ago that my frantic state of busy-ness had left me empty. The well had run dry from lack of use and I couldn’t muster the motivation to fill it back up. As a creative person, I found that terrifying. What if I had no more good ideas? What if that phase of my career was over? How depressing. What I really needed was a break.
One clue – that occurred to me much later – was my happiness in the selfie above, snapped two years ago. I was on a plane headed south to the Turks and Caicos for a week of doing absolutely nothing. I thought I would be bored silly. But after two days deciding whether I would sit by the beach or the pool all day, you couldn’t peel me off the lounge chair. It was heaven! I fed off the salty ocean air and the warm tropical breeze. I yearned for a more creative life.
My do-nothing beach vacation blew out the cobwebs in my mind. It was obvious that in order to fill up my emptiness, I needed fresh juice. But I didn’t know where to find it on the path I was travelling. There were no creative options in the near future, and I was too run down to work on something after hours. I needed to shock myself with a challenge – a new environment with different opportunities. It wasn’t about discarding people (never!) but challenging myself to think differently. And the only way to do that was to take care of myself first. I’ve always put my employers first but this time, I needed to put myself front and centre.
I decided to move my home base to Vancouver and set up a creative communications consultancy which is now in progress. I’ve got a long winding road ahead but I’m excited about it – I feel more passionate about the challenge, instead of stressed. But re-filling your cup doesn’t have to be as drastic as moving across the country. Here are a few other things I plan to do in future to make sure that my cup is always brimming.
Take a break – At Flare, I rarely took my vacation time. Monthly deadlines made time off more of a chore than a pleasure. I’ll never do that again. You can’t be creative when you’re tired. I will always make time for vacations, stay-cations and days off.
Find a creative outlet – I love to read books. I devour magazines but quickly scanning them with an editor’s eye. That feels like work. Reading a good book forces me to slow down and savour every word. So if you like to sew or knit or cook – do more of that.
Exercise – Nothing clears my head better than a long walk. And I started practising hot yoga this year – a focus that gives me peace and strength.
Just say NO – I’ve said this before but creative people often take on too much because they want to do everything. Know when to say no when you need to take care of yourself.
Be good to yourself – This has always been a tough one for a self-critical control freak like me (and most other editors I’ve met). But I’ve learned how important it is to just stop and be in the moment. Read a book, go for a walk, laugh with a friend, cuddle a pet, meditate. The last one – meditate – is something I plan to learn. I know that it will help make sure that I’m taking care of myself first.