In 2020, there was nothing.  There was space.  The “great pause” was the first time for many of us in this industry to stop the hustle. There was no next gig or project right around the corner to occupy our minds and time.

This moment of stalled time was the first opportunity to genuinely take stock of the pains that plague our bodies and the stress that foments in our minds. The pause allowed me to ask the big questions and have enough time to contemplate the deeper answers. 

The hum of the industry tends to block out everything else. Our lifestyles do not encourage proper rest. There is always another paycheck to make so we can survive. Living in survival mode is incredibly taxing. Taxing on your personal relationships, your mental and physical health, and your relationship with your creativity.


First, let’s have a working definition of creativity. Creativity is the force inside us that asks “What if?” or “How about….”. It’s a sense of wonder and curiosity. It’s the desire and action to leave your mark upon the world by breathing life into something that was inert before. It’s a dynamic kiddo who loves to ask weird questions. 

My creativity loves to come up with texture recipes, think about ways to sculpt foam and mix paint in regards to Scenic Art. There’s a lot about my job that satisfies my creative spirit. Something I hadn’t realized until the pandemic was that I wasn’t using my creativity to express my own voice. Instead, I was using it in service to the project’s vision. It took time and space to realize that my relationship to my creativity was based on what I could provide to a project. I used it to hustle for cash. As I came to these realizations, I had to ask myself if this was the kind of relationship I wanted to be in. Do I want to drain my creativity for cash? How can I honor my creativity while still making a paycheck? Is there a way to refill my empty tank?

Here’s are some tips and tricks I have found helpful in tuning up your relationship with your creativity. 

Talk to a mental health professional

The universe has delivered a great deal to process this past year. With the momentum stalled out, it’s easier for all of the issues you’ve been avoiding to catch up with you. At the same time, you’re dealing with a heap of grief and uncertainty about your career. Even the most balanced and grounded of us need help to deal with this overwhelm. When you have a broken bone, you go to the doctor. When overwhelm breaks your brain, and you don’t know how to get out, go to the doctor. I thought for the longest time that admitting that I needed help was a weakness, when in fact, it’s the opposite. It’s brave and strong to reach out when you feel like you are drowning. 

Listen to your body

Your body’s goal is to protect you so you can survive first. Although an ancient and vital part of our brain, creativity is one of the first things to go. Working the long hours we do on physically and mentally taxing work puts us closer to the fight, flight, or freeze response. When we heap stress upon stress upon stress with no actual time or space to decompress, we’re pumping adrenaline and cortisol through our system, constricting our blood vessels, and enacting more stress on the heart. In short, it’s not good. 

Through this great pause, I realized that I was living way closer to that edge than I wanted to. I wasn’t being truly mindful of the messages my body was sending me. Did you know that there is no “regular amount of pain” you should feel while living in your body? I didn’t. My chiropractor reminds me of this anytime I go to see them. 

We are at a shift in our industry. It’s time to stop having pride in how many hours you can overwork yourself and push through the pain to serve the art. We are the artists who create the art. Tending to our health will only benefit the art we create. Who makes their best work running on fumes anyway? So let’s shift to tuning into our body’s needs. 

Take time to catalog your lingering aches and pains. Do you have a sore back that you ignore? How crunchy are your wrists? Do you take ibuprofen daily? Stretch and take note of what’s tight and what’s not. Roll out your body on a foam roller. Get to know your body at rest and in movement. Re-acquainting yourself with yourself helps to provide insight on future injury and pain. You will know something is wrong faster and be able to address the new stress sooner because less stress means more space for creativity. 

Expose yourself to new art and information

Are you on your 5th rewatch of The Office? I don’t blame you. I take great comfort in revisiting stories I already know. There are no surprises; you know who triumphs and who fails. Everything is already known. As someone who lives with anxiety, this is one of my favorite ways to self-soothe. Take stock of what media you are consuming. Creativity loves to chew on new ideas. 

When I’m feeling stale in the media I am consuming, I like to diversify. thisiscolossal.com is a rabbit hole I love to travel down. There’s a bunch of different mediums showcased, and the imagery gets my brain spinning. Here are a couple of other tips to revving your creativity through curating your input:

  • Your social media: Who are you following? Social media can be a great tool of discovery and inspiration. Find some interesting independent artists to follow. Have you always been intrigued by ceramics but never took the leap yourself? Find some cool ceramic makers to follow to help feed your inspiration. 
  • Watch or read a genre you don’t know much about: You may loathe what you pick, but that’s a good thing. A firm “No” provides insight into what truly lights us up. 
  • Visit public art installations: Public Art is free, everywhere, and often outdoors. Take a walk and appreciate the sights. Ask yourself how they accomplished it? What would you change? What would you keep the same? Engage in the art to get your creative flow working with you. 

Drink a glass of water and have a good hot meal

Your body needs nutrients. You will feel zapped if you don’t feed your body the food it needs. As soon as I made a conscious effort to drink more water during the day, my low-grade headaches disappeared. It turns out I was medicating my dehydration instead of drinking more water to actually fix the problem. 

Accountability buddy

Our careers are built upon a community. We are called to work with others to produce our art. After a year of isolation, it’s no wonder our inspiration is at an all-time low. We aren’t used to creating in a vacuum for ourselves. Our work usually services the project’s final vision, creating on our own uses different creative muscles. Instead of utilizing creativity to come up with the best sidewalk texture, we are now using it to execute our own visions beholden to no one else. It was a big shift for me and a little bit intimidating. 

It was easier to let the intimidation wash over me some days, and I wouldn’t give my creativity the exercise it craved. At the end of those days, my self-esteem took a hit, and I felt disappointed that I let myself down. It was then I figured out that I needed an accountability buddy. 

Co-working over zoom has helped me stick to my goals and accomplish the tasks I set for myself. It’s lonely working all by yourself in your apartment. Seeing someone else also working, even if it is virtual, helps me stay on task. At the top of a co-working session, we share our goals for that time together, and at the end, we check in about our progress. Saying my goals out loud to other people helps me stick to the plan. My brain likes to seek the shiny and gets distracted very quickly. When I am in a space where everyone else is working, my brain settles into focus. 

Get Outside

Immersing yourself in green space two hours a week is vital to regulating your nervous system. It lowers your blood pressure, stress hormones, anxiety and increases your immune system function and your self-esteem, to mention a few benefits. Walking increases your blood oxygen levels and circulation, which promotes healing. Not to mention that a sunrise or sunset is astoundingly inspiring. I gain a lot of inspiration from taking a walk outside. I can’t tell you how many times I had to stop to snap a picture of a beautifully distressed wall or an interesting juxtaposition of color and texture. And these snapshots of inspiration inform my creative practice. When I am feeling out of sorts, I catch a sunrise over the lake. Nature is grounding, inspiring, and amazing for your overall health.

Getting in a better creative flow is within your power. Be brave, try something new. You never know when you will stumble on your new great inspiration.


 

Steph Charaska
(she/her/hers)
Creative Revolutionary
IG: @char.darling
stephcharaska.com

Steph has been an avid practitioner of creativity since a young age. She has 12 years of experience as a scenic charge artist in the entertainment industry. She has her roots in the Chicago storefront theatre scene and now has developed her own artistic voice as a mixed media artist. Steph also produces and hosts a comedy variety showcase, and regularly performs stand-up comedy. Using her background in performing and her passion for education, this social media marketer makes delightful, impactful content to inspire her followers to take brave steps into the unknown wilds of their own creativity.

 


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Other Resources

  • If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
  • If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
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