Dr. Susan Raeburn shares with vocalists a way out of the creative rut.
Last week we identified self-care as a key part in each stage of the creative process.
We looked at Barbara’s challenge of feeling inadequate and subsequently abandoning her CD project.
Today, I want you to consider steps ahead you could take in your creative processes.
We need to do much more than “think” about it; thinking can keep us mired in our creative rut so, I invite you to try the following exercise.
EXERCISE: Taking Care of Yourself During the Creative Process
Think of something creative you are trying to accomplish now, perhaps a specific project.
Grab a journal or a blank piece of paper. Sit down in a quiet place and spend just a few minutes asking yourself the following questions:
1) How well do I take care of myself during the different stages of my creative process? Where am I the most successful at taking good care of myself? Conversely, what stages of the process are most challenging for me? Note your answers.
2) Describe what is challenging. Are the challenges:
• Physical? (e.g. fatigue, sleep disruption, headaches and such)
• Psychological and/or emotional? (e.g. negative thinking and judgmental self-talk, anxiety, depression and so forth)
• Social? (e.g. unhealthy relationships, feeling lonely, conflict about not meeting demands from family, feeling guilty when you’re not putting others first, etc.)
• Behavioral? (e.g. poor time management, avoiding and procrastinating, drinking to escape, etc.)
• Spiritual or existential? (feeling alienated, doubting the meaning of what you’re doing)
List as many as apply and be as specific as you can.
3) Pick the area that is the most challenging or the most important to begin improving your self-care. Note it now.
4) Make a plan to improve your awareness in this area, perhaps by practicing self-observation with acceptance (that is, without judgment) over the next several days or weeks. Summarize your plan here.
5) Is there anything that you already know you need to change about your current approach? As best as you can tell, what barriers will you be facing when you make the necessary changes? For example, are the barriers under your control (changing your thinking or your habits) or outside of your control (changing other people’s thinking or habits, or the marketplace)?
Start by working on the parts that you can influence. Ask for help if you need it.
Have fun with this and keep it simple. Remember that you are the final expert on how you work best and what you need to do for yourself. If you need more help with this exercise talk to a supportive friend, a therapist, or a coach. Keep going!
Getting Back on Track
In the past, Barbara allowed fear and the frustrating parts of her creative process to derail her efforts and to divert her with loads of TV, chocolate and cigarettes.
This time she knew she had a choice: she could put herself down, keep numbing-out to distract herself and give up on her dream or, she could apply what she has learned about taking care of herself to this most important area of her life.
Happily, Barbara chose to emotionally regroup, to persevere and to problem-solve what she could do differently.
She figured out that she had been quite unrealistic about how long the process of writing and recording her songs would take. She then learned to pace herself more effectively and to increase her support, both emotionally and practically.
Barbara completed the remaining songs on her CD having discovered nuances that were fresh and unanticipated for her.
When the project was done, she started planning a CD release party…
… but first she went dancing with her husband at the seaside.
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.
Material from feature image:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/blacklord/537470565/ by Blacklord