Artists are notorious for ignoring what their bodies need. Who has time to think about hydration when you're in the midst of a rush of inspiration? Why stop for a proper meal when you can grab takeout and nibble as you work...or worse, ignore your hunger until you reach a proper stopping point? In fact, your health — physical, emotional, spiritual and mental — is vital to your artistic sense and creativity. Allowing yourself to get run down is a little like letting your creative well run dry. And, as the saying goes, you can't draw from an empty well, or pour from an empty pitcher.
But there are only so many hours in a day, you're probably thinking. When and how do you fit in all this "self-care" stuff? Consider these tips a self-care checklist that can help inspire you to take better care of yourself in ways that feed your creativity and increase your satisfaction with life and your art.
Make Self-Care A Priority
What is the single most essential tool you have for creating your art? If your answer was brushes, a kiln, your loom or anything other than your body, take stock of your priorities. The fact is, you can't do anything without your body, and taking care of it should be at the top of your daily to-do list. You should take the same care with your body that you'd take with your most expensive and precious tools. After all, you can always replace them. Your body — mind, spirit and emotions included — is the only one you'll ever have.
Creating Time for Self-Care
Now, that's easy to say, but what does it look like in your day-to-day life? While that will vary from person to person — we're all unique individuals, after all — these are some of the ways you can fit taking care of yourself into your daily (or weekly) routine.
—If you're the type who gets consumed by your art to the point of forgetting to eat, drink or sleep, set timers to make you stop. They don't have to be rigid but should include short breaks for you to breathe and release tension, as well as longer breaks for meals and physical activity.
—Start every day with a healthy practice. One of the most prolific potters we know starts his day with a morning yoga routine. It's a good way to wake up, get your blood moving and center yourself for the day. You might substitute a morning stroll through your garden, showering with your favorite body wash to wake up your senses, or giving yourself a few quiet moments to meditate. The value is not just in what you do, but in the fact that you're doing it. Routine helps establish a stable base to start your day.
—Set aside a few hours weekly to prep healthy grab-and-go meals and snacks for the upcoming days. It may sound like a big investment of time, but you'll be amazed how much time it saves during the week. For example, you could spend two hours on Sunday afternoons chopping veggies and assembling Mason jar meals for breakfast and lunch. Not only does this save time for the rest of the week, you’ll also avoid the temptation to order in unhealthy fast food because you’re too tired to cook. Why Mason jars? Believe it or not, because they're pretty. There's something about layering colorful ingredients in clear glass that really appeals to the artistic soul.
Practice Self-Reflection and Gratitude
Mindfulness may seem like a catchy fad, complete with viral buzzword, but there's a lot more to it than "write down five things that made you happy today." Research shows that keeping a "gratitude journal" may keep you healthier and reduce stress in your life. A daily journal is also a great place to jot down your inspirations and half-formed ideas for those days when your muse isn't firing on all cylinders or when you are wondering how to be more creative. Whether it's a daily sketchbook, a poetry journal, a gratitude journal or an old-fashioned diary, putting your thoughts on paper helps you reflect on where you were, where you are and where you're going. Journaling — on gratitude or otherwise — helps you slow down, appreciate the world around you and, while you're at it, appreciate the goodness in yourself.
Share Your Art for Good
We’re not suggesting you should give your art away for free, exactly. But there's something uniquely satisfying — to the soul and to the spirit — in using your art to do something good for others. The form this takes is up to you. You could contribute part of the proceeds from sales of your work to good causes, paint a mural for a community center or do a weaving workshop at a community event. And it won’t just generate good publicity for you—nothing in this world compares with the feeling of helping others through your skills and creativity.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer who specializes in home, education and lifestyle topics. She draws on her experiences as a teacher, mother, grandmother and all-around creative spirit to help others achieve their own goals.