One of my biggest takeaways from this past year of writing my butt off has been this: creative energy is a finite resource.
This might sound obvious, but to me, it’s been a revelation.
See, in the past, I’d always had enough creative energy to see me through. Back in my corporate days, I could only ever devote time to my writing for a couple of hours here, maybe a day there. So I always had plenty of juice in the tank and I never really thought about it.
But this past year has been different. Having to write all day, every day has taught me that our creative energy is actually a precious, limited, valuable resource. Consequently, it needs to be nourished and replenished in the same way that you feed your belly or fuel a fire.
But way too often, especially in the past six months, I let that heartfire burn low. Then, in an act of mad desperation, I would try to reignite it with quick-burning kindling like sugar and caffeine and sauvignon blanc. (Yes, I knew better, but sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures.)
On some occasions, I worked myself into such a hole to meet a crazy deadline that I neglected to eat properly or go for my formerly-non-negotiable hourly walk. Sometimes, I was too busy to even shower or wash my hair. (#StinkyButTrue.)
But every time, when I stole and scavenged those precious bundles of energy from other areas of my life in order to bunker down at my desk, I always paid for it later. Always. Plus interest.
After each stretch of madly rushed work, it would take me a day or two to recover. I’d end up lying around feeling completely, utterly zonked. Worse than that, I would feel incredibly guilty that I wasn’t at my desk, but knew that I abso-freaking-lutely had nothing left to give. I was wrung out. Drained. Dry as a bare-ass bone.
So, one of my big, hefty, much-needed business resolutions is to work on restoring and replenishing my creative energy. Regularly. Daily. As a priority.
And how do you refuel your creative energy?
For me it’s a combination of the following:
+ Good food.
+ Lots of movement.
+ Time in nature.
+ Plenty of mental space. Which means both formal types of solitude (like meditation and yoga) as well as the mental space to roam free doing things entirely un-work-related (reading fiction, whimsical drawing, writing in my journal).
+ Random acts of non-work-related creation (creative cooking, lounge-room interpretive dance sessions, writing random crazy things just for the hell of it because I love it so damn much).
+ And sweet, sweet sleep.
In short, all the things that constitute good self-care. Or in other words, all the things we know we should do, in order to live a life that feels good in the living.
It’s all about feeding your soul and keeping the inner fire smoldering in a sustainable, nourishing way.
Yet of course, these acts of self-care are the first things to disappear at the slightest sniff of a looming deadline. Of course. Whilst not desirable, it’s totally understandable – we do what seems most urgent. And sometimes, you simply have to forsake your hour-long workout or your meditation session in order to get something important done.
It’s fine if you do it occasionally, but it’s not so fine when it becomes your standard mode of operation.
Which is where my resolution comes in…
My big commitment to myself to help me replenish my energy? Put self-care first.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, maybe not…
Initially, I thought I would commit to doing a set routine each and every morning. You know, a bragworthy ritual filled with glorious sunrises, pretzel-like yoga sequences and Insta-perfect green smoothies. (In these imagined morning sessions, I was always wearing some uber-cute workout outfit with my hair in perfect beachy-waves. ‘Cos, you know, that’s totally how I look when I exercise. I totally never-not-ever end up wearing yesterday’s still-sweaty workout clothes ‘cos I can’t find any clean ones and I haven’t done laundry in a week. That would be gross. #StinkyButTrueAGAIN! )
But then, I had another epiphany.
I realized that I am me, and this is real life, and aiming for something that works and fits in with the realities of my work is better than aiming for perfection and feeling like a failure.
So the solution? The first thing I do every day will be an act of self-care.
That I can do.
Some days it will indeed be yoga followed by a green smoothie followed by a monk-worthy meditation (although let me assure you that my bushy hair makes beachy waves highly unlikely).
But some days it might be as simple as writing three sentences in my journal or spending two minutes randomly stretching or just eating my brekky in the sun sans laptop.
I like the idea of waking up and immediately thinking of a way to nourish myself. That appeals to me. I like the idea of aiming for big-time self-care, but acknowledging that there are times in life when the smallest gesture to one’s self is enough. And I like the idea of turning it into a habit, first thing each day.
This I can do. This is achievable. This – I’m hoping – will start an internal revolution.
So tell me, sweet pea – how do you honour your creative energy? How do you make sure you put your self-care first? I’d love to hear your tried-and-true techniques in the comments below.