Creativity As Self-Care: My Creative Process
Recently on my YouTube channel I shared a video in which I filmed a montage of myself making a cup of tea. Here, today, I thought that I would take you behind the scenes into my creative process from that day, which was much more than what you see in the montage or even the video about filming it. Set up and filming began around 1:00 in the afternoon, but at 8:30 in the morning I was already preparing myself mentally.
Was all of that necessary? Likely not. But it added something to the day and turned a creative task into a day of creative self care.
I began the day with some journaling. Writing whatever comes into my head always helps me to be more creative, because it allows me to clear my head whenever there are any distracting thoughts by writing them down and then let my mind explore creativity on its own without any rules or limitations, just words flowing onto the electronic page.
“It’s looking like a beautiful Saturday morning outside, the sun has just come up maybe a couple hours ago, and it’s casting a warm light across the landscape outside,” I wrote. “Everything outdoors still looks very bare: the trees are leafless and the grass is dead. But you can tell, somehow, that spring is starting. The air isn’t as bitter as it was, especially this morning on what is supposed to be a warm day.”
From there, I wrote about my plans for the day, using it is a space to think about the details and flesh out ideas. I noted my plans, ideas, and concerns, using it as a way to think through how to accomplish my goals and release any worries that I had about it.
After I’d written a bit, I made a cup of tea and switched to some mental stimulation to get my mind alert. I find that there are many things that make me more engaged with the world mentally, but also many things that really just shut my brain off. Many relaxing things, like TV and games, while they certainly have their place when I need a break, are really designed to let my mind shut down and disengage, which isn’t what I need at the beginning of a day of creativity. Instead I need my brain up and moving.
One way to achieve this is to get my body up and moving. Go for a walk or grab some weights. But on this occasion I decided to go for some brain games instead, and after solving some puzzles I felt much more alert.
Now that I was awake and had met some of my mental needs to properly orient myself towards the day, it was time to meet my physical needs. Sometimes I wish that my physical needs didn’t need met, because it can disrupt my flow. My creative flow would love to skip breakfast and just start creating, but if I did that I would quickly find that my body stopped being able to keep up with my ideas, and then that the ideas too stopped coming from a lack of energy. So instead it is vitally important for a day of creativity, or for any day, that all of my physical needs are met. Towards that end, I showered and ate some breakfast, and then took a bit of a break, to be physically prepared for my filming.
Preparing to Film
After all of that I felt ready to get ready to film, but I was a bit nervous about actually starting the camera, which isn’t unusual when I’m about to do something different. Even though I knew it would be fun, I was also worried that it wouldn’t turn out or that something would go wrong. So the first step in preparing to film is often to take a few deep breaths and clear my mind.
Then the setup process begins, during which I often put on Spotify’s Peaceful Piano playlist just to help myself feel even more relaxed as I begin filming, because I often find that when I am most relaxed I am also most creative.
It’s during the somewhat lengthy setup phase that I get out all of my equipment, layout the set, and set up the camera and lighting. I also take some time to review any notes, script, or shot-list, think about the mood I’m trying to convey in the film, and make last minute changes for new ideas that come to me.
Finally I mic myself up and hit record.
Since I don’t typically edit things immediately after filming them the creative part of the process for the day really ends there, but the process doesn’t. At this point it’s time for the more unfortunate part of the process: the cleanup.
On top of the mess, there’s often a weird feeling after doing something creative. Exhaustion, accomplishment, and disappointment that it’s over, all at once. Opening my journal once again, I wrote, “And so that, I suppose, is likely the end of the creative process for today. It feels like a rather abrupt ending, but that’s how it is. After a few hours of strong creative focus, I’m left with some uncut footage and a big mess. The project is over for now, and there’s a similar feeling to the one you get when guests leave the house after a long awaited visit or Christmas Day is over. I’m sorry it’s over, but I’m also tired and need to clean the house.”
Lights, cameras, and tripods needed put away, and displaced items needed returned to their homes. By the end of filming the tea montage video my bed was covered with random things to get them out of the way or lay them out for easy access. My coffee maker was on the dresser and everything from a teleprompter to a partial box of plastic bags was on the bed.
Trying not to sit down too long for fear I might not want to get back up, I engaged in a flurry of cleaning, after wish I was tired but finally able to rest. I wish I could say that all this creativity had left me feeling ready to conquer the world, but the reality of the situation is that creativity most often just leaves me ready for a nap.
Creativity can be a form of self care, because it’s also an activity that takes energy, so it’s important to take care of yourself afterwards too. Rest, go for a walk, or whatever else you might need. Enjoy the sense of accomplishment, without feeling bad about not doing more “work”. There will be time in the future for other things that want your attention like cleaning, and there will be time for editing, but for now you’ve done enough.
Obviously much of this is not a necessary part of a creative project and I don’t do all of these things every time, but I do try to do what of them I can whenever possible to get the most enjoyment and creativity possible. Filming a video is always fun, but there’s something special about making a day out of it and engaging in some self care along the way. No matter what activity you like, I would encourage you to occasionally wrap it in other relaxing activities as well and take the time to really be in the moment, forget the world, and fully enjoy it.
Curious about my editing process after filming? Check out this video editiong walkthrough in Final Cut Pro: