Care Enough to Create

When you feel that nothing you’ve done vocally is any good…it’s time to really start caring. Susan Raeburn PhD points the way forward for vocalists.

Barbara’s Catastrophe

Barbara was happiest when singing her own songs.

She’d long been an accomplished vocalist and had done some albums with friends but her dream was always to record a CD of her own material.

When the time finally came to move this dream to the top of her priority list, she began with a strong start; Barbara’s first five songs flowed easily as she’d been hearing them in her head for months.

With the writing going smoothly, she maintained the Self Care improvements she’d made in various areas.

Barbara then hit some familiar roadblocks with her project; she experienced “fits and starts”, ending up with a handful of half-finished songs.

While she knew that frustrations on her project were inevitable, when the going got tough she started to lose perspective, scare herself, and catastrophize: “I’ll never complete this project” and “maybe it ALL sounds like crap”.

Barbara feared that the setbacks meant she was “not talented enough” to complete a whole CD. Her muse had left her and she felt sorry for herself.

The key for Barbara (and us) is to understand how to better practice Self Care in each part of the song-writing journey.

Self Care as Muse to the Creative Process

In creativity, self care means identifying and overcoming those personal barriers which prevent you from expressing yourself fully and from doing your creative work on a regular basis.

These barriers may be emotional, behavioral, social, situational, existential, spiritual, or a combination of them all.

Consider Self Care as a muse to your creative process. How are you treating your precious muse?

Taking Care In Each Stage

Having looked at various parts of the self-care equation in previous articles, let’s turn our attention to how you’re actually taking care of yourself while you’re creating: have you built self-care into each stage of the creative process?

Although we know that the creative process is not really so simple, it can be helpfully described in these stages:

Preparing – beginning, researching, assembling needed facts or materials before the fact

Incubating – gestation of the ideas and materials, assimilation into our existing mental outlines

Working and Revising – finding solutions/working out the details of what will work

Completing – making art/actually doing it

Additionally, we may include other practical stages:

Promoting – sharing/self-promoting/selling your work

Returning to normal life – unwinding following completion of a project.

As you consider your own creative process, self-reflect on how you take care of your self during the different stages. If these stages feel too confusing just imagine “the Beginning/the Middle/the End” and go from there.

Whether or not you wish to write a song or to find new creative ways of approaching vocal performance, self care is crucial to your path forward.

Next week I’ll introduce you to an exercise that can clear the way to creating.

Useful Links:

SPAM in the Vocalist’s Brain

Creative Recovery

Susan Raeburn, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is the co-author of Creative Recovery. Susan maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Berkeley, Calif., and is a staff psychologist in the Chemical Dependency Services program at Kaiser Permanente. Susan’s mother, Ginnie Powell, was a professional vocalist during the Big Band era, singing with the orchestras of Gene Krupa, Harry James, and Boyd Raeburn.

© Susan Raeburn December 2009.

  • Staying motivated is often the challenge. Self care is definitely an important point to focus on.

    Sometimes deciding to commit to the discipline of creating is not so easy to follow through… but the best thing is to keep at it, even though most of what comes out will not be used in the end.

    Thank-you for the post Susan! I look forward to reading next weeks exercise! :-)

  • DReed

    Susan, great article on Care enough to create. Often, we also forget to 'feed the muse”, simply thinking that it will come always from within.
    A good start to feeding the muse is by listening very closely to conversations that we have with friends, and hearing (keyword, “hearing”) how they interpret the world through phrases that are unique to them.
    Force yourself to do something out of the ordinary that takes you out of your norm or routine. Get excited about the activity, remember the moments.
    Learn how to look at the world through the eyes of a child, or should I say remember how. Everything was new once, and our perception of that newness molded how we viewed everything since..try to remember.
    Feed the muse, and your muse will feed you.