Create I Must
I have had an urge to write another blog for a while, but with everything going in my life it’s been a little hard to find the peace and quiet to actually make sense of my thoughts. So I found myself this morning looking through some old unfinished blogs I’d written up ages ago and felt this one really needed to be dusted off, finished and published. I wrote this blog nearly two and half years ago at a time when I was single, trying to find my feet in supporting myself, looking after my health and balancing my needs as an artist. My life has changed drastically since. I am currently planning a wedding (to the most amazing man and the love of my life), readjusting to an entirely new life in a new part of Melbourne and a few more stresses on my physical health than I would like. So in some serendipitous way it seems timely that I should revisit this piece I wrote nearly two and a half years ago. I believe that all of the following arguments still stand and the thoughts are even more so relevant given the new circumstances I find myself in. ---
I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity. Anyone who knows me, without hesitation will call me “creative” before assigning any other adjective to my name. Being a “creative” is a huge part of my life. Secularly I work part time as a graphic designer and where I can, I freelance as a photographer and illustrator. My Instagram and Facebook friends will know that I infuse creativity into every aspect of my life. I am a creative whirlwind, always looking to express myself creatively, always needing to create. If I don’t create I am miserable, I am not myself, and I am not happy in my own skin. So create I must...
Now here comes the part where I explain my chronic illness. As a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome there are days when the best I can do is lay horizontal in front of my laptop and watch episode after episode of chosen TV series. I have had countless days where I have seen the very real side of CFS cognitive dysfunction – a symptom which results in my brain and body shutting down after large amounts of mental input or processing. As an artist and creative I have an insatiable thirst for deep conceptual work and research, so I find my body and mind’s refusal to let me do so rather limiting. Particularly with my visual art practice. So the question I have been coming to terms with recently is, how exactly do I maintain my creativity whilst still caring for myself.
The short answer is, it’s a delicate game of balance.
If chronic illness has taught me anything, it has taught me that sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes you’re behind. About a month ago I was in such a good period of health I was able to get up before my work day and head in to my art studio and do an hour or two of creative work. Gosh I love those mornings! I feel so alive after a morning of complete and utter dedication to my own creativity. For me it is the equivalent of an hour or two at the gym. You know that post gym endorphin high you get after an intense workout session? That’s exactly what it feels like for me.
Recently though, I have been going through a lower period of health. I have had some demanding circumstances in my life deplete me of my precious energy. So my creative mornings have gone by the wayside a little bit. If the better health of an average person was on my side I absolutely would not sacrifice those mornings. But with CFS as a constant contender for my physical resources I absolutely cannot ignore my symptoms. So there are days I sleep in and allow my body the precious rest it needs.
Add to the equation of self care working and supporting myself and the game of balance becomes a little trickier. I work part time, on average four hours a day in the mornings. I am eternally grateful that I have the opportunity to still support myself. That being said having to work every day (even if it just four hours a day) is a huge task for me. So a huge portion of my mental, physical and creative resources are devoted to getting dressed and showing up at work. Given that a huge chunk of my energy is allocated to other things I’ve found the battle to remain creative a little tougher than I would like. But, that’s ok. I have learnt that there is no such thing as the ideal situation for creativity. I have learnt that small pockets of time are highly valuable gems in my weekly schedule.
These small pockets of time might go something like this. Perhaps I get home of an afternoon after work and have a little rest. Great! Then I might have the energy to put dinner on. Great! And while dinner is chugging away in the background I can quickly pull out my collage and sketching materials and throw something together. Bonus! Or maybe I have a Sunday afternoon spare and by some miracle the stars align and I have energy. That’s when I get really excited and set up my work station at home or in my studio and really get stuck in. Pockets of time are precious little gems scattered throughout my weekly routine. They’re little gems which if utilised properly allow me great creative freedom. Sometimes if I’m lucky I get big chunks of time, but until I get those big spacious hours or days to create I make the most of my little chunks of time and make haste where I can on the creative fronts.
In light of this it has occurred to me more recently, that creativity doesn’t always have to be capital “C” Creativity. We can fall into the trap of thinking creativity is this grand, high and almighty thing. But it’s not. It’s often the simplest way we express ourselves. Creativity can be channeled into just about anything. It’s the way we do our makeup or the way we throw a meal together, perhaps even the fun we may have in decorating our homes or playing dress ups in reorganising our wardrobe. Creativity is the stuff that’s woven throughout our daily routine, the mundane stuff that we infuse with a little bit of fun and play. It’s this sense of fun and play that feeds into the greater creative projects. The big stuff, that sometimes, actually is capital “C” Creativity.
When it comes to the big stuff I have been known to go into hiding whilst in highly Creative (yes capital "C") periods. I don’t tend to socialise a lot during those periods and I go extremely quiet on the comm’s – phone, text, social media etc. It’s nothing personal I promise. It’s just me going into "protect mode", guarding what precious resources I have as a creative being who has a chronic illness and a driving urge to create. Creative energy is a very precious commodity that needs to be protected. As creatives we are more often than not extremely sensitive individuals and many of us fall on the empathic scale of caring. There are times when we give to others, which is very much a part of who we are, but sometimes we can give too much. In my experience I’ve found that emotional energy feeds directly into creative energy. If I’ve given too much of myself emotionally then I simply don’t have what I need to create. There are times I need to withdraw to check in with myself, fill my creative well and get down to creating some pieces. So if you notice I’m hiding and creating, just bear with, I’ll stick my head up soon. ---
I’m not entirely sure that I’ve mastered the art of being creative. When I wrote the above thoughts I was muddling through the lessons I’ve learnt in my day to day life as an artist. This world seems to bash the creative out of us, and distract us so perfectly from the voice of our inner artist that it is an achievement and an act of defiance in my opinion to remain creative. I’m not sure that I will ever have the perfect creative routine as an artist. I have spent years beating myself up for not having it all figured it out. But after a conversation with a creative mentor recently I’ve come to realise that it’s not about having it perfectly figured out. What matters is that you keep on keeping on. Life is tough, sometimes it sucks, sometimes it’s amazing and sometimes it’s downright mundane. Though what I’ve come to see is that creativity should be the constant. Sometimes it will ebb and flow, or trickle and rage. Sometimes there will be quiet periods of poor health, frustrating periods of stress, or in some cases big “C” creative periods of rapid inspiration and drive. Whatever the case, I’ve learnt to create is to feel at home in myself, to process the world around me, to be at my equilibrium. So that leaves me with one option.
Create I must.
The Hungry Artist xox