Self-care for artists and creative folk needs a specific brush. We choose, on a daily basis, to expose ourselves to criticism, rejection, self-doubt and the judgement of others. These things that most people work hard to avoid are part of our bread and butter. It is vulnerability on a loop.
When combined with the solitary nature of our pursuit and bursts of creative flow followed by (hopefully occasional) creative drought we need to make sure our self-care routine is high on the priority list. Forget the tortured artist archetype, research shows that when we are well, happy and healthy our art is better.
Without a solid self-care strategy we open ourselves to creative block and burn out. Here’s 5 ways to take care of yourself and nurture your creativity:
1. Self-care for artists 101: Define success – count meaning, not likes:
The vulnerability of releasing a new piece can be nerve wracking. It often happens that the work we love most is not the most popular. The decisions we make when creating are a process of bringing our inner world to life. We place parts of ourselves on display for critical review. When they’re received well we are floating on air.
When they aren’t? We can come crashing down. But that is only if you define the success of your art by it’s popularity with others. If you have a solid definition of what makes your work successful then the launch pad for new work is sturdy. It is self-care for artists step one.
Measuring your art in the modern world by likes and followers is a slippery slope. One algorithm change on Instagram can result in a rapid decrease of likes and leave you questioning your worth. Anyone who has posted outside their ‘niche’ can attest to the rigidity with which you can become contained on social media platforms. As an artist that doesn’t leave a lot of room for play, experimentation and stretching your creative muscle.Measuring your art in the modern world by likes and followers is a slippery slope. One algorithm change on Instagram can result in a rapid decrease of likes and leave you questioning your worth.Click To Tweet
If you plan to thrive as an artist take out a journal and start defining success in your own terms. Were you true to your vision? Did the piece express what you wanted it to? Expand your creative repertoire a little? Did you get lost in the process? Learn something about yourself or your art?
Define what makes your work a success – to you. Then climb up on that platform and stand strong.
2. Disconnect to Connect
An artists life is often solitary. It is easy to lose days enmeshed in your latest project. When the creativity is flowing we can forget to connect with the world around us.
While creative flow is a beautiful thing, isolation is not. Balance is better. Taking time to intentionally connect with others, and disconnect from the online world while you do helps feed the creative part of your brain. Turn off your phone, step away from your art and be present with another human being.
A great way to do this for artists to to join a local group – you get connection, support and a sense of shared experience all in one. Join a writing community, photography meet up, a local artists circle, a community art project and expand your real life tribe.
3. Go off script: pivoting your creativity
We can get stuck in a creative rut, or trapped in a our niche. Trying a new medium or technique can work wonders. Learn to suck at making art again – it’s the grown up version of finger painting, Get messy, have fun and forget about what anyone will think of your work. Listen, no one has to see it if you don’t want them to.
If you’re a photographer try drawing. A sketch artists? Give Salsa dancing a go. There’s no limit to what you can turn your hand to, you already have a creatively wired brain – stretch it.
Giving your mind and body a new creative outlet can reignite your work if you’ve hit a rut. Often when I step out of my photography/writing space I come back to it with a fresh perspective and approach to my work. I always gain something.
4. Take a Break: have you considered a schedule?
Artists create 24/7. Our brains are wired to see, hear and feel the world through a lens of creative possibility. This is a beautiful way to walk through life but can lead to burn out.
Some artists swear by a schedule. Setting aside our most creative time of day for working and guarding this fiercely.
This gives our non-creative time a sense of freedom without the pressure that we should be creating something. It also gives us space for that unthinkable modern malaise of boredom. And boredom is where our brains wander off and daydream giving us the very thing we need to tap into our deepest creative self and reinvigorate creative flow.
If you’re a procrastinator a schedule can work wonders for beating the faffing. Focused creative time limits our window for mucking about with organising the pantry and gets us to work.If you're a procrastinator a schedule can work wonders for beating the faffing. Focused creative time limits our window for mucking about with organising the pantry and gets us to work.Click To Tweet
5. Get Lost: do it for the process
Our art itself is a form of self care if we’re not consumed by how it is received and have a solid ground for putting it into the world. So if you’re clear about what makes your work ‘successful’, step away regularly for real connection and get messy in the unknown you can return refreshed to your work and get lost in the making of it. Research shows that just 45 minutes of making art lowers the stress hormone – cortisol – in our brains (obviously this excludes me learning how to composite in Photoshop :O ).
At times we can get fixated on finishing the work and forget to get lost in the process. If you’ve started forgetting to love the process make your art with mindfulness. We’re serious – schedule that!
We’d love to hear how you take care of yourself as an artist and creative soul. Comment below and share your tips with the Women Creating tribe.