Stress and creativity: we’ve all got ’em both. Thankfully, four creative trailblazers from the OwnTrail community— Kaitlin Maud, Brandi Nicole Payne, Susan Lieu and Jen Fischer — came together for a frank conversation about stress, creativity and the relationship between them. Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:
1. Being an artist or creative brings its own stressors.
Some aspects of a creative bring unique sources of stress, including money, public vulnerability and the business/management side of being a professional artist. Entreprenuership in general can create financial instability, and different creative mediums have their own financial timelines. For example, Brandi left a day job for a role in a TV show writer’s room — a shift from a more predictable longterm gig to one that was fulltime for a matter of weeks or months before the search for the next one.
Also on the list of stressors? Social media! The seeming necessity to post, to plan, to promote takes practical energy and time but also the mental and creative energy away from the other work. It’s more than another task or item on the to-do list — distributing creative work puts you at the mercy of algorithms that reward constant posting and engagement. And while control over your schedule is part of the freedom of a creative career, the need for consistent social media and promotion can insert stress.
“I don’t want to be a brand, I want to be a person,” Jen said — and the whole panel nodded in agreement!
2. Creativity is personal and professional.
Your creativity is part of your broader identity. The panelist introductions underlined this, as did the intros from the attendees — artist, entrepreneur, activist, mother…we’re all multi-faceted. Unlike some other jobs, it’s not possible to fully separate our creativity from other parts of our lives. This is especially true for creative professionals whose work comes from their lived experiences. When the boundaries work, the work and your life become blurred, stress can easily grow. For example, Susan shared how she never dreamed her father would watch her recent work Dear Ba (a letter to her father)— yet he did.
Recognizing that creativity is present throughout our lives can help with any accompanying stress, regardless of what you do for a living or if you charge money for your creative works. And finding safe spaces to have open, authentic conversations about it — like OwnTrail! — is a big help.
3. Creating space for creativity requires support.
This especially rings true during the pandemic, when our personal and professional roles and demands are under new demands. (Can we get a show of hands for everyone who is the preferred parent or go-to problem solver in their household?) Some solutions shared included a shared spreadsheet to keep track of family “me time”, delegating household work like cooking or literally using a separate space to be creative (or not!). Finding the systems that work for you helps make creativity less stressful and can reduce the stress in other areas of your life (remember, it’s all connected!).
Brandi said it best when she shared that she reminds her family that “everyone here is a helper.”
4. Be sure to save something for yourself.
There’s value in creating something just for you! Freeing yourself from having to figure out how to monetize, market or share a creative work can liberate you from the stress that comes with all those activities. Jen, who works with her partner, has Sacred Sundays — a set time she works on just her projects. Brandi recommends exploring another creative medium, like dance or baking.
Reminding ourselves that creativity doesn’t have to be productive can take the stress away from it and your everyday life.