Pals, it’s time for some tough love. We’ve talked about mental health for creatives before as well as about taking care of your physical health when you’re a writer, but I feel like there’s still something I need to say. You’re struggling with your creativity because your priorities are wrong and you suck at self-care.
If you’re using your creativity just to pass the time and to have something fun to do, and you don’t have any end goal besides having a good time and doing something creative, this post probably doesn’t concern you. You’re probably not stressing over the quality of your work or about whether people like the end results or not.
But if you’re someone like me, someone who puts her work in front of people on a regular basis and whose livelihood kind of depends on other people wanting to consume what she creates, you might be struggling with some of these pitfalls.
Are you neglecting your physical and emotional health and still expecting yourself to be creative?
This shouldn’t be news for anyone, but I feel like a lot of people might need reminding: in order for your creative mind to work in the best of its abilities, there are other needs you have to meet first.
There are different ways to describe what humans need, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but we’re not going to get technical here. I’m just saying that physical and emotional well-being are things that need to be taken care of before you can expect yourself to create amazing things. If you lack safety, meaningful relationships or purpose in life, that will affect your creativity as well. Your creativity in everyday life will suffer if your everyday life is heckin’ stressful.
So am I really saying that you need to have everything in your life working perfectly before you can create something? Of course not. You don’t have to have perfect health and you don’t need to be happy all the time to be able to be creative, you just can’t neglect those aspects of your life.
Even if you feel like absolute garbage before you sit down to write, you can still do great writing as long as you recognise and accept your feelings. Even if things aren’t perfect, you need to feel like you’re being supported – by yourself or by others.
What to do to fix this issue
To be clear, you don’t need to solve all your problems before you can create anything. You just need to acknowledge any issues you have and then work towards solving them.
For example, I was feeling kind of under the weather for a couple of weeks seemingly for no reason and I was struggling to get anything meaningful done for Protagonist Crafts. I was somehow convinced that it was all because of a lack of systems and planning, but as I was lead to read one of the ebooks I had purchased almost two years earlier, I realised how wrong I was.
Physical and emotional wellness are the foundation that you need to build everything on. It’s so glaringly obvious that I’m still amazed that I didn’t figure it out sooner.
I listened to what my body was needing and I started paying more attention to my feelings, and you know what happened next? I didn’t immediately lose all my random cold symptoms and my leg pain, and none of the issues in my relationships magically disappeared, but I was overcome by this feeling of okayness. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or desperate, I felt supported and on top of things.
If you’re struggling with your creativity and you keep looking for a solution after another, pause for a while and see if the issue might be somewhere else. Take stock of the other aspects of your life – like health, emotional well-being, relationships, meaning and purpose, finances – and see if you could need more support in any of them. Just remember the first person to support you in any part of your life is you.
Are you counting on other people or situations to make you happy?
If you’re expecting other people to make you happy, you’re giving away a huge chunk of your personal power. You might gasp at that and prepare to throw something at me, but it’s true. Ask me how I know.
I have no doubt that other people’s actions towards you can be awful, and I’m in no way excusing them even if I say that your happiness is your own responsibility. What I’m saying here is that you can’t go about your days relying on other people to act the way you wish them to and then basing your own happiness on how well they do that. That’s just a recipe for a disaster and a lot of crying.
When you’re a creative person and putting your work out there on the internet, there are a lot of things you might base your happiness on. Goodreads reviews, Etsy views, Pinterest shares, Instagram followers… The list is endless. At worst, you’re at the mercy of ever-changing algorithms and you’re basing your happiness and self-worth on that? STOP IT RIGHT NOW.
Unless you like to be miserable and only unpredictably happy, you have to decide your happiness doesn’t depend on people or circumstances. It’s remarkably difficult to focus on writing or crafting or other creative work if you might fall apart as soon as things don’t go the way you expected or hoped them to go.
Of course it’s natural and totally fine to react to things and to feel bad, but you can feel and process those feelings without letting them completely bring you down and alter your feeling of purpose. It might seem impossible to you right now, but I promise it’s totally something you can learn.
What to do to fix this issue
First of all, you have to learn to set intentions. If you intend to have a good and creative day no matter what happens, and you remind yourself of this fact in the course of the day, you’re less likely to falter whenever something “bad” happens.
(Of course there are genuinely upsetting things that might happen to you, including but not limited to earthquakes and sudden death, but we’re talking about not having our expectations met here rather than about catastrophes.)
Secondly, you need to figure out the things that actually make you happy and what you actually value. When you’re on your death bed, do you really think you’re going to be remembering the number of people who purchased your art prints or the amount of money you made in February 2021? Will you remember every single book review?
Or is it possible that you might remember the impact you DID make rather than didn’t make, and the fun you had while creating your things rather than the number of people who agreed it was a good idea to create to begin with?
When you have a clearer idea about what really matters to you, it’s easier not to be rattled by the details no matter how important they might seem in the moment. Photoshop crashing or your blog posts disappearing will have nothing on you either when you’re filled with purpose and determination, even if you do let out an F-word or five. You are, and have always been, far bigger than your circumstances. Start to believe it.