Setting Your Conditions for Creativity: Self Care

If you want to stay creative, a good start is to recognise what makes you tense, stressed and makes you feel disempowered. Being tense and stressed is a way to efficiently block your natural thoughts.

Think about yourself. Consider what is making you feel less creative. You will know from experience what is draining your creativity and energy. I call this part setting your conditions for creativity — essentially looking at what is going to make you blossom. Conditions for creativity are anything that maximises the chances in reaching a desired goal.

Some of my personal conditions for staying creative are: good sleep, exercise a few times per week and time to relax. Also, I know that if I’ve not done anything that’s fun for a long time my creativity is gone with the wind. I have to look after myself before I help others, and if I forget to do that my creativity works on low speed.

Having good conditions in place for creativity to grow reminds us that we’re not robots but humans with feelings and vulnerabilities. We’re all unique and the conditions for creativity that we allow to exist in our life are expressing who we are and what we need to be our best. So each person requires different conditions. Maintaining our personal conditions for creativity is putting the oil in a machine. We need them to function well and we need new oil too every now and then.

Remind yourself daily to talk to yourself gently. If a machine does not work because of lack of oil, you would not scream at it ‘Work now!’ Instead, you would refill the oil and let it start over again.

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If you have a horrible headache, are tired and have not eaten well in the last 24 hours, it’s likely that your creativity is not in top form. Don’t kick yourself when you’re not feeling great. Your creativity will come back to you.

A person in the design industry I met at one of my workshops told me that she was always working on new projects that should go live soon. She told me that she often felt as if she could not function and that her creativity was very low. She was in this creative role and felt pressured that she should be super creative. We spoke about her concerns and it turned out that she felt as if she didn’t get enough recognition from her colleagues and friends.

I asked her who her biggest supporters and sponsors were. She identified them and then I encouraged her to ask them to give her more positive feedback and encouragement. After she had done this, she felt much better about her projects and she knew she had accountability partners who would support her and give her feedback even if she didn’t feel great. The others who didn’t give her positive feedback didn’t matter any longer as she was already feeling great with the feedback she got.

For some people it can help them to be creative to watch less TV. Others will be more creative by relaxing and having coffee with friends more often. I can’t tell you what’s best for you. You need to get to know yourself better to understand this. Do be aware that your conditions for creativity might change as you grow as a person. What was right last year might not be right this year.

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When I was a student, I studied with a friend who was very creative and had a strict routine that he had to follow every day to be able to function. He was inner world-focused. When we met up again recently, I could see that he had changed. He now focuses more on the outer world and the people he has around him. His conditions for being a creative human being have changed. It is not the routine that makes him creative any longer but the people he meets and works with. His situation has changed — from living in a student environment to working for a big newspaper. This made his life very different and his conditions changed with him.

Exercise: Setting your conditions for creativity

Compare situations when you have been very creative and other circumstances when you felt drained and tired. What was it that was different?

An example can be: very creative and inspired — ‘I felt rested and had a good breakfast.’ Not creative — ‘I was feeling stressed and insecure; I had been sleeping badly for several days in a row.’

Now think about your conditions for creativity: what is it that blocks you and what makes you blossom? Make a drawing where you describe what is important for you to stay creative. This is your personal reminder of what’s important to you. Don’t use words. Drawings are much more efficient and will stay in your memory better. You’re also using more parts of the brain when drawing.

If you feel that going to a comedy show is great for you, draw a big laughing mouth. If it’s jogging, draw a jogger. If you need more sleep, draw a bed.

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Keep this piece of art close to you for a while and remind yourself that you have to do these things that are good for your inner creativity. Put it on your fridge and make sure you follow them.

You have to have fun, talk to your friends, do things you’re entertained by that’s going to nurture your creativity, whatever that is — musicals, theatre, trips. Remember to do things that YOU think are fun and inspiring. It all starts within you!