One of the things I want to say right off the bat is, I do believe there is a connection between poor mental health/depression and creativity, but in all my years, (with depression a constant shadow) my experience (my own stuggles, and others I support with their own mental health) and research (on causes, treatment, philosophy and other artists) what I believe is this :
you ARE not creative because you are depressed, You are creative because you're awesome!
Artistry is not just an impulse, it is a discipline. It takes hard work, careful planning, and even if you pare it right down to basics, you still need the life skills to aquire materials, work on a project to completion and show people what you are doing. These facts alone support wellness as an asset. Now, just to be clear, if you are not well at the moment and you can't manage those things, then don't worry. This is not going to stop you, things can and will get better, and these are really good goals, if they aren't achievable right now. But all the things you need to thrive live in the realm of wellness, so investing in getting a healthy balance can only be good.
Creativity can take a nose dive when we are overworked, so here's a check list of great ways for you to recharge your creativity and kick start those little grey cells!
1. Change perspective
This may sound obvious, but start with whatever is in front of you. Take your pick of the every day objects around you and put it somewhere different. Change the light and composition around it, and see what happens. It’s amazing how interesting an old teaspoon can look in the right light. Change the view. What happens? Can you get a shine on it? Does it cast a long or shapely shadow? Is there a way to view it so that it doesn’t look like a teaspoon any more? What happens if you pair it with something odd? Can you create meaning? You might surprise yourself and find something really cool without even leaving the room, just by changing the way you look at something.
2. Challenge yourself
Challenge yourself to work within different parameters. Decide to do something different from your usual approach and stick to it, even if it’s tricky. Change the scale of your work, try creating something enormous, or something tiny. How does that alter your approach and what would feel interesting to try in that space? Be proud of the things you master and take the opportunity to grow your skill in areas you want to explore.
3. Limit Your Toolkit
Perhaps you could try a limited palette - it’s amazing how lovely a face can look in all blues, does it alter the mood? How can you capture the light and shadow? How does a blush look? Perhaps ignore Colour altogether. What happens if you can only work with solid shapes? Can you still create light and shadow? Can you create depth and perspective? You could even try working to a really tight deadline. Speed painting can be an excellent way to get into a flow of producing work, and limited time helps you to focus on the most important features. It’s amazing what a break from your usual routine can show you about your ability.
4. Get sociable!
Get outside, hang out with friends or just go to an event and get involved! Make an effort to talk to people and listen too - even us shy creatures flourish in good company, and there is no better way to gain a fresh perspective than hearing someone else’s views. The more you socialise the more food for thought you gather, so ask questions and don’t be afraid to share your ideas too! You might even collaborate with someone and that’s sure to push your boundaries and open up new ideas. And if nothing else you’ll have a good giggle and that alone makes it worthwhile.
5. Feed your mind
You don’t even have to travel to see inspiring artwork any more. So many artists & galleries share everything online now and there’s an endless pool of creative curators sifting through the best of the rest to bring you new & exciting ideas. You also have a wealth of things to read at your fingertips, so seek out what interests you, go and discover some new artists, new writers and new music. Pinterest is a great way to collect ideas so if you find yourself overwhelmed with inspiration you can curate those finds onto different digital mood boards. Or you can just go old school and print things to stick on a physical mood board, whatever works for you. Just be sure to feed that creative engine regularly, and you’ll never run dry again!
6. Just Do It!
Sometimes you just need to kickstart the engine. Much like any other work, creative work takes time and effort so it’s important to be aware that procrastination is not your friend. Get yourself in front of the job and just get it done. It may not be a masterpiece just yet, but if you give it time and effort, you’ll get there. I believe in you!
Burnout is a bitch. It sneaks up on you so easily, especially if you are passionate. Most creative people are juggling a regular job alongside their creative projects, and when you throw self promotion and networking into the mix it’s easy for time get away from you. But if you’re not careful, all of that passion, fire and energy can quickly turn into an exhausting treadmill. So here's some no-nonsense tips on keeping sane without being less driven...
1. Create just for the joy of it.
Burnout interferes with your creativity, gets in the way of idea generation, and makes you less productive. You can be grinding away at your passion and it just feels like hard work. One thing I found that helps is to spend some time just creating for the joy of it. Make, write, paint, photograph. Maybe even just doodle - just do it for the love of it. Don’t think about selling it, sharing it on social media, or leveraging it for the business end of what you do. Allow the creativity back in. If you can create without restraint it allows your brain to roam free again. Without an audience you can do things differently, even cover it in swear words and little dicks if you like! Try it! It’s satisfying, and can really take the pressure off once you’re enjoying yourself again. It’s working smarter instead of harder.
2. Make a point of practicing self-care.
When there is always something to get done (and there is!) it’s very hard to put your needs first. Even simple things like drinking enough water, taking the time to make a decent lunch or (or making time to pee!) can easily get forgotten. But if you don’t take care of yourself you will keep struggling. You wouldn’t treat an employee that way, so make a promise to yourself right now to treat yourself with the same love and care you do other people. Don’t work while you’re eating, take regular breaks and stay hydrated. Have coffee when you make time to sit and enjoy it, not as fuel to wake your tired body. Everything will wait for you, and you will feel much more able to achieve your goals when you are feeling refreshed.
3. Think Positively
What I mean is, think positively about yourself. A tough one for some, I know! Remind yourself what you are capable of. Think about what you’ve achieved. Maybe even what you have survived. There is only one you, and your voice is unique. Life is a precious gift, and when we hate on ourselves we damage our chances of living it to the fullest. So write a little love letter or put some positive post-it notes around the place. Say it out loud if you can! It makes pure sense. People who have a stronger level of self belief experience less stress in challenging situations, and when they tackle stuff successfully, their self belief actually increases. Start small if you need to, but believe in yourself and start achieving those confidence goals and it will lift you up. Imagine how much you could achieve with all that extra confidence!
4. Give yourself a break
A proper break. The work isn’t going anywhere. It will wait for you while you have some time to rejuvenate . Have a rest, a nap, bath. Or anything that that makes you feel more relaxed. Then don’t beat yourself up for it. You work hard, you’ve earned it! And if you don’t feel better after all that then take some time to re-assess what you’re doing. We create to feel fulfilled and happy, so don’t be frightened of challenging how that works until you get the balance right. Because you only get one life, and it’s worth living well. You deserve it!
5. Get Inspired!
It took me a long time to learn this one - but it's okay to be inspired by other artists! Yes you should be looking to create original work, you don't want to be a copycat but it's actually really inspiring to see how other people approach a subject, explore new mediums and enjoy new concepts. So take time to mooch around a gallery if you can, or just browse online, there's so much out there to re energise you. Keep an eye out for my next post for juicy examples!