Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Taking a Break

I have come to observe, both in my own behaviour, and other creative people around me, that one of the creative person’s greatest pitfalls is not taking a break. Most people will book holiday/vacation at regular intervals during the year. But, somehow, the self-employed, and in particular those working in the arts, don’t give themselves time off. Many reasons behind it are financial, but mostly it’s the perception of loss of momentum and control in productivity.

My blogs are always written when something resonates with me, and this week is no exception – I write from personal experience.

Working towards a goal, like my exhibition, has suddenly kick-started an old habit of mine – extreme drive. This drive is my enemy and my saviour rolled into one. I cannot achieve without it, but it is one of the most difficult things to turn off. Even when I am tired, frustrated and burnt-out, my drive will keep me up late at night, and fill every waking moment with obsession over the project in hand.

I wrote, produced and released 5 CDs as a singer-songwriter between 2001 and 2007. That was a highly driven time for me. Not only was I in the studio recording a lot, but I was performing live at least once every week. The only thing that stopped me in the end was serious illness. Our bodies are wise and will always let you know when you’ve been overdoing it. In the first year of my self-employment I gave myself 1 week off. In the following 2 years I gave myself 2 weeks off per year. After I became ill at the beginning of the 4th year I was forced to take 16 weeks off. I survived better than I thought I would, both financially and in productivity. No surprise to me looking back on it, but I wouldn’t have believed it before then. So since then I’ve given myself a week off after every 8 weeks of work! It has been truly beneficial – I feel better, and I’m more productive! Only occasionally now, do I find myself in overdrive – but I recognise it straight away, and I pull myself away from the project – even though I’m mentally kicking and screaming! I also have great friends who remind me that its time to take a break. My resources are strong these days, and they come in many forms – friends, family, pets, internet, books, relaxation, exercise, spiritual nurturing, students, the outdoors, music, films, and more.

I know I’m not alone, and each one of you reading this will identify with some, or all of the above. There will be those who deny this is the case, even though it is – please reflect on your own behaviours – we are often our own worst enemy.

My message to all of you is to write in regular breaks into your schedule, and into your working year. It may seem odd to suggest that to keep yourselves more creative it’s essential to take more time out, but it really does work.

Above photo, "back up to the dunes" © 2008 Deborah Eileen Burrow

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Setting the Inner Creative Child Free

Inside all of us is a creative child. Its that child we remember who dabbled in the sand and rock pools on the beach, drew crayons marks on the walls, pressed flowers and leaves, built hideouts in the woods and generally explored and experimented.

Over time that child gets a bit quashed and re-shaped into adulthood. If we are lucky we may go to college or university and re-learn, re-discover and encourage the creative child to create new things within a structured and well researched course. Hopefully the child remains part of our move into the professional world of creating and making a living from it, or just keeping the creativity as a hobby and finding a lot of pleasure in it.

Some of us will identify with the above. Others will identify with a different scenario – that of being someone who has lived a life without creativity since they were young. They may feel either that they have had no opportunity to express their creativity, or they feel that they are not creative at all.

Here is the truth – we are ALL creative in one way or another. Whether we express this through cooking, baking, home making, decorating, gardening, building, landscaping, sewing, writing letters, organising an office, the list goes on. The fact is that everyday living is creative – we have to use that part of our brain to function on a daily basis.

Here comes the fun part! I would like to invite you to do something different today, tomorrow and for the rest of your life. What is it that burns a hole in you? Is it writing, painting, dress making, interior design, pottery, drawing, photography…? Something will be desperate to be expressed. To start your personal creativity desire journey, indulge yourself in fifteen minutes a day of something you love. Don’t set yourself restrictions, just let that inner creative child free and express your heart out. Even dancing is creative!!

Even we seasoned artists can benefit from this freeing up of ourselves. When I started the journey I allowed myself to play with clay – it was liberating and really inspiring. I set aside all my long-held beliefs in not being able to do something, and the fear of being laughed or sneered at. It changed my life, and even though I didn’t carry on with ceramics, it had an impact on my painting. Through lots of self-indulging I found my true self and now I am proud to be who I am. Now I constantly remind people that creativity is a part of everyone’s life, not just mine.

Celebrate one of your deepest instinctual drives and please help others to do the same. You may be the one key to enriching another’s life by reminding them who they are.

Above painting, "Furrows" © 2008 Deborah Eileen Burrow