This is the perfect time of year to stop and reflect: where have you been? Where are you going? How do you get there in one piece? One thing for certain, you will not make it on an “empty tank” so we asked an eclectic and diverse group of creative professionals to share their tips and techniques for resting and recharging. My personal thanks go to the owners of the Award-winning Sagewater Spa (www.sagewaterspa.com), Rhoni Epstein and Cristina Pestana, for seeking out and providing me with a number of creative professionals to be interviewed for this piece (the first version appeared in Communication Arts Magazine).
So, you can always run “out of gas” trying to balance conflicting needs, especially personal and professional. You need to dedicate yourself to your work and you want to spend time for yourself or with your family. You need to get work done and need to get some rest. Does this conflict sound familiar? Michael Fleishman is a freelance illustrator, teacher and author and lists the first most important technique– physical exercise. He also suggests that you plan some buffer time from when you walk in the door at work to when you start talking to clients.
It does not seem to matter what technique you choose for your recharging as long as you identify these two things: activities that you can turn to and a retreat you can look forward to. Annie Consoletti, graphic designer, says, “Play is a key element to creativity. I don’t think one can be freely creative without having a sense of play. I put all of my energy into whichever project I am working on and am equally as passionate about my design work as I am in cooking, gardening and landscaping my yard, which at the moment includes cementing and staining a wall in my back yard.”
Craig Wright, television writer for SIX FEET UNDER and LOST, validates physical exercise and adds another technique – walk away! He says, “Not to be painfully obvious, but everything seems better when I’ve had some sort of strenuous exercise. Other than that, I tend to work in short spurts, with short rests in between, unless there’s a looming deadline. Whenever a creative problem seems unworkable, I give up and walk away. A few moments later, the freedom of having given up usually allows for a new answer to show itself. The key is actually giving up. You can’t pretend to give up.”
A ‘laundry list’ of re-charging activities is good to have in hand before you need it. The worst time to try to create this list is when you are burned out – so do it NOW! Michael Fleishman shares his list, “Swearing can be fun and work miracles (I’m only half kidding here). Doing something you absolutely love to do. Being in the company of someone you cherish, someone who listens, and who you want to listen to. Laughing. Laughing hard. Making music. Listening to music. Making art. Looking at art. Reading. Watching movies. Certain foods (in moderation, of course) can be medicinal, as are certain friends (sometimes also in moderation). Sleep is good; very, very good for you.”
Don’t underestimate the value of planning and being organized. In his book, The Business of Graphic Design – A Sensible Approach, Edward Gold says “Creativity’s dirty little secret is that control is not the enemy: control is a necessary ingredient that makes creativity possible.” Vanessa Eckstein, founder of the design studio Bløk, validates this point, “I discovered that the only way to avoid stress is planning ahead the time frames of when projects should begin and end and allocating time to explore in the middle. Prioritizing what is important versus what is inevitable. That is the practical part but avoiding stress is also knowing that one way or the other (and sometimes I do wonder how!) we always get to finish the project on time and proudly.”
Another technique is to deliberately go outside your personal comfort zone. Vanessa Eckstein adds, “I do look for a place which will surprise me. Places in which things happen magically because I encounter differences to what I am accustomed to. I go where I can meet people who I would have never met had I stayed at home. I look for situations that end up being a mixture of the everyday and the extraordinary.”
Finding a special place to go is one of the most common techniques among the creative professionals I have interviewed over the years. Annie Consoletti explains, “I moved to Los Angeles from Boston and shortly thereafter discovered the desert. For me it is a very creative, magical place filled with great energy. I’ve always been a spa-goer and it happens that Sagewater Spa has the best water in the world. For me, it is my ‘No Stress Zone’. You feel like you’re on your own private island with beautiful magical mountains in the distance and the sweet smell of the desert wafting by as you absorb it all in. It definitely has Zen-elegance and I feel totally renewed after a stay and ready to face the blank canvas!”