THE ART OF SLOWING DOWN.
I was going to post about something else this week - but a chance virus has prompted me to explore something else with you, the art of slowing down.
We can’t create with consistency and dedication if we’re run down or ill. The relationship between art and work and productivity is a complicated one for lots of us. But whether you rely on it to pay the bills or not, your art’s presence in your day-to-day and what to do when you’re ill can be difficult to figure out. Just in the same way that a self-employed person must take care of their number one asset - themselves - so too must an artist.
Managing a period of slowing down is often a battle between physical and emotional symptoms - but it’s something we all have to deal with at some point in the journey. Learning to listen to yourself and respond accordingly is all a part of building up a map of your creative process. Sometimes we can learn more from the ebbs, the gaps, the lack of progress than we can from the energetic, flowing parts of the process.
Assess the situation.
Everyone’s needs are different. Knowing your own limits and the way your body heals is the start to forming a really positive relationship with your work/health balance.
Only you can decide exactly how much of a break you need to make time to heal. Sometimes sickness dictates this entirely - if this is the case, don’t fight it or rush it. Sometimes it’s a little trickier to identify. Be honest with yourself about how your body really feels, and listen to your instinct.
Assessing like this will help you work out if you need a couple of proper sick days (no work at all, stay in bed type days), or if you can manage things with a slower schedule and plenty of self care.
What absolutely has to get done? Make two lists, one with everything, and one with the bare essentials. When it comes to slowing down you have to accept that you can’t do all the things you’d like to. It’s not ideal, but getting the must-do’s done and stopping as soon as you have is the best way to prioritise a lighter workload.
Maybe this looks like pausing your creative projects completely. If it’s all you can manage, know that it’s okay to prioritise paid work, or taking care of yourself, or doing adult things like cooking and washing etc. Your art can be an important priority, and still be something you need to put to one side occasionally.
Managing emotional symptoms.
Guilt and frustration are the common ones here. It’s normal to feel the inner critic firing up if you’ve had to sideline some of your big dreams or goals for a day or two.
The crucial thing to remember is that although steady, consistent progress is the best way to work towards a big dream - taking a couple of days or a week away is not inconsistency in the long term.
Being disappointed in yourself for something like not reaching your word count target, or skipping a few days of a 365 challenge is understandable. It feels like you’ve dropped the ball, like you’re not committed enough. But with daily creative habits like this, it’s helpful to avoid an all-or-nothing mindset; you can pick it back up, a break is not forever.
Building a more restful routine.
If you’re planning to keep working but at a slower pace, try to adapt your usual working methods to something a little more restful where you can. Move to the sofa or your bed if it’s practical and more comfortable to do so. Take things offline if you can to limit screen time. Keep warm, wear your pyjamas or something cosy.
If you’re working on something that only needs half your attention, put a favourite comfort film or series on in the background.
Take an afternoon nap - even twenty minutes will help refresh you and give you a chance to replace some lost energy.
Keep your fluid intake up! I feel ridiculous writing this because it seems so obvious to me (but I know from experience with family members that it really isn’t). If you’re ill and trying to rest and recover - please keep drinking plenty. Tea, squash, something fizzy is good too if you can’t face water.
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