For many of us creatives, it might be argued that when it comes to our chosen art form, there actually is very little in the way of choice. It isn't that we can't put down the pen, the paintbrush, or the sheet music. Rather, we know that if we do, there will be a significant hole in our lives. One so big we make our creative pursuits (writing, art, dance, music, sculpture, knitting, beadwork, photography etc.) of greater priority than things like, watching TV (though sometimes we do that too), surfing the internet for no particular reason other than distraction (well, guilty sometimes), or doing things like bathing...(ahem.)
It could also be said the pleasure from doing our art outweighs all these other interests, (ahem, ahem essentials) sometimes to our detriment.
So we make, we braid, we string words together, cut, paste, play, practice, get messy, mess up, and sometimes forget important things like eating, drinking, exercising, connecting with the outside world...
At the moment, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo, a fun and intense writing adventure. Confession: I haven't gotten dressed in weeks. Kidding. I have, sort of. My yoga pants are putting in a lot of stationary miles. And that's okay, mostly, but there are times when I find my hygiene lacking, my mind distracted (still trying to figure out that scene), and my shoulders hunched and aching along with my butt, elbows, my eyelids...
Sound familiar? If you're driven by your art, staying up late, getting up early, forgetting what day it is...
Remember this, you have to take care of your instrument: YOU!
I'm going to use writing in the following examples, but these suggestions can be applied to however you create your art.
Food It can go one of two ways: We're so invested in what we're doing we forget to eat and hydrate... We come back from a ten page sprint and realize we haven't eaten since breakfast...nine hours previous.
Or we can't find our flow. Go to the fridge. Snack. Nope, it's still not there. Scrounge up some chips and guac. Trying to get this character's name right...I could really go for some onion rings. But I'm so not feeling this dude's interest in escargot. It doesn't fit. And gross. But mmm... some chocolate sure would be tasty. Something baked with pumpkin... And so on.
By the end of our session, we've eaten our way through the kitchen, but haven't nourished ourselves or our project. (*Though professionals do say chocolate has some health benefits.)
The solution: Don't forget to eat, but don't forget to write either...If I find myself particularly absorbed and I'm not listening to my stomach calling, I set a timer to go off around breakfast/lunch/dinner time. I also keep a water bottle by my side (refilling it is a good excuse to stretch!) In the case of incessant snacking, the next day I plan out what I'm going to eat (each meal and snacks and when) and work it into my schedule so I stick to my tasks.
Fitness I exercise because movement is one of the quickest ways I know to boost my mood and get my creative juices flowing. Whether I take a walk, stretch, do yoga, or cardio, I make movement part of my daily writing program because it motivates, stimulates, and keeps my body from aching before or after sitting so long while drafting. After I'd spent one too many nights cursing lower back pain, I decided I wasn't going to let it stop me from doing what I love so I routinely make my muscles stronger.
Solution: Traditional exercise appeals to some, not so much to others, so what I recommend is to do what you like. It could be a 3-minute chair stretch between chapters. A walk or hike at dusk after a long stretch of writing is a great excuse to see the sunset. Join an adult sports team, go to a yoga class once or twice a week. Play with your dog, kid, dragon...Whatever you do, move a little or a lot to protect those peaches.
Fuel Sometimes as creatives we're sucked into our art full-on, day and night, not coming up for air until we're feeling depleted by the very thing which ordinarily fuels us. It's dangerously easy to become so deeply absorbed in our writing we start to feel drained, leading to a lack of inspiration or straight up burnout. Don't let what you love get you down. I already mentioned food, but the refueling I mean has two parts.
Solution: One, connect. Don't forget to unplug, power down, and step away from the keyboard to live outside the awesome world you're creating. Hang out with friends, visit family, call someone you haven't spoken to in a while, read in your hammock, whatever you do step away from your work from time-to-time and charge up with the people and activities that make your spirit soar.
Two: sleep! My friends...Sleep is one of the greatest things we have going and it's free! When you've been working, living, creating hard...your bones, neurons, (partner, coworkers, even the postal carrier!) will thank you if you get some rest. It's essential. Next time you're reading the same sentence over and over, take a nap or go to sleep early that night. When you sit down on your writing throne, replenished from a solid snooze, you're sure to feel alert and sparking with new ideas and directions.
*There are other, more serious states and situations creatives find themselves in such as depression...if you suspect you or someone you care about is in it deep with their mental or physical health, please seek professional advice.
How do you keep on top of your health as a writer or creative? Please share below.