As a creative, I’ve grown to be protective of my ability to actually be creative. Did you know the human mind can experience decision fatigue? Some sources cite that the average adult makes around 35,000 decisions a day. This means at some point during the day we can literally grow weary of making decisions that serve us well. Often ordering a coffee in the morning uses up dozens of those decisions. In fact, most of us use almost 300 decisions just around food. Even more often we make our worst decisions at night, whether it is with wine, ice cream, snacks, etc. It is useful to establish habits that reserve as many decisions as possible to be used on the important creative decisions we will make as artists.
So, how does that translate in our studio? As a newborn and maternity photography studio, we enter each session with predetermined gowns, back drops, baskets, headbands, wraps, outfits, etc based on the information we’ve collected from our clients through the systems we have in place during the sale of the session. Every newborn client gets bean bags images, basket or bucket images, and images with mom and dad. After those images, provided there is still time left in the session, we are free to make creative decisions. It may seem like such a small thing but knowing the color palette in a client’s home or nursery eliminates the guess work of which blanket, wrap or outfit to use during the session, clearing the path for our creativity to be used on lighting, posing, etc.What is it which causes us to think that unless we’re suffering through little sleep, long hours, no breaks, skipped meals, stress through the roof and zero down time that we can’t possibly be working hard enough to attain success? You’ll hear some chant it almost like a rite of passage, “I’ve gone all day without eating because I was so wrapped up in my editing,” or, “I only got two hours of sleep because I’ve been so busy,” or, “I work so much I haven’t had a vacation in two years.”
Often the seemingly most unrelated habits can work as a drag on your ability to tap into creativity when it’s most desired and necessary. As an Olympus Visionary and a photographer with partnerships that require consistently creative output, here are five important practices I use to boost my creativity through self-care:
- Sleep 8 hours every night without exception. Yes, you may be a night-owl and that’s just fine. Sleep 8 hours anyway. It’s proven that virtually less than 1% of the population is hard-wired to function on less than that. That means the rest of us have the same brain power as someone who is intoxicated on 6 or less hours and have the ability to function at peak on between 8-10 hours of shut eye.
- Wake up right. Most of us use our phones as alarm clocks so it’s very easy to pick it up and not put it down before checking to see what happened over night. Those who don’t use their phones for an hour (at least) after waking are proven to be up to 50% more effective throughout the day.
- Drink water. Very few of us actually hydrate our bodies, often going from coffee (lots of coffee) to alcohol. Drinking water immediately upon rising has some awesome effects on the body and mind, giving your brain and your metabolism a boost. The best way to master this one is to always carry a full water bottle with you and have water ready on your nightstand.
- Stretch. We sit so much! We edit this and email that and design this and write that. Stretching keeps us energized and prevents lethargy. Stretch when you wake and as often as you can throughout the day.
- Practice silence and gratitude. Let it be during your stretching time during your morning or make it a separate commitment. Creativity is largely about self-discovery and we need a little quiet time to have those moments. Just take 10 minutes to be silent and practice some gratitude to keep your heart and head in a place of creation.
The bottom line is that I’m able to be most present and connected with my clients when I’m not exhausted, starving, dehydrated, body fatigued, in a place of attitude instead of gratitude and disconnected from my most creative self. When I practice these simple creativity boosters, I open myself up to deep connections and experiences that are the bellows to the fire of my creativity.
It’s never too early or late in the science of our own photography businesses to put systems in place so that we don’t have to “think” of what we should do in response to every situation. For example, how do you respond when a potential client inquires about your business? Do you take 20 minutes to carefully craft a personalized email? Or do you have a response that works to get the potential client to take the next step that you’d like them to take? Every single step from the very first touch can be consistent and repetitive because as Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.” Is your creativity best repeatedly invested on things that can be systematized or would you find your greatest return using your creativity to evolve in your photography and perfect your craft?
It’s addictive. Once we begin experiencing the freedom provided by the systems we set in place, we find ourselves asking, “What else can I systematize?” I may never go this far but Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg even systematized their clothing, eliminating options on what to wear to save their brain power for more important decisions. Which decisions can you give up? What could you set to a system to free yourself up to be your most creative self?**All images taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark ii paired with the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 Pro