How beautiful it is to do nothing – and then rest afterwards – Spanish Proverb
Painters wash their brushes, carpenter’s oil their tools, musicians clean and tune their instruments, singers exercise and care for their voices, doesn’t it follow that storytellers must take care of the tools of their trade as well? And yes, you, dear storyteller are the tool of your trade. You, all of you, not just your voice.
As an artist, creative or storyteller (or however you define yourself) it’s important to prioritize self-care. Of course no two artists are alike, and there is no simple formula for this.
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. – Audre Lorde
One of my biggest challenges when preparing for a performance, or in the days following one, is to avoid overextending myself. I had a serious case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) last Sunday, because I wanted to attend the free events at the Reference Library as part of the opening weekend of the Toronto Storytelling Festival. My mind wanted to, my heart wanted to, my creative-self wanted to, but my body was saying, “No!”
Yes, we are storytellers but we are also human, subject to the beauty and limitations of our very human bodies.
I participated as a poet, in the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Wychwood Barns the night before, and although I didn’t have a lot of prep to do (because I knew my poems well) I wanted to/needed to: show up to sound check, arrive at the venue early, stay to see all the performers and schmooze afterwards. The pre-show adrenaline rush, combined with the energy needed to perform, and the effort of the social interactions (yes, I am part introvert, so sometimes it is draining) and all the walking I had done the previous day meant my body really needed some rest on Sunday afternoon. Yes rest. In the end, it came down to whether my preference was to take care of my physical health, or push my limits and drag myself out of the house based on the fact that if I didn’t go, I might miss out on something (FOMO).
You suppose that you are the lock on the door, but you are the key that opens it. – Rumi
Reality check, we are probably always missing out on something! So it’s really a matter of figuring out what your priority is at any given time. Yes, we are storytellers but we are also human, subject to the beauty and limitations of our very human bodies. Relaxation, healthy food, clean water, adequate sleep, movement, social connection, financial status, stress level, access to artistic expression and health care all play roles in how we feel, and inevitably how we will perform. These are just some of the things that can affect the energy we have access to when we are ready to create. We are not fully in control of all of them, but we can still be mindful of how and when we take care of ourselves.
I know, I know, you are reading this on your phone, computer or other tech device, and now I’m about to suggest that you take a break. TV, movies, phone, radio, computer, video games, they all have a way of taking us outside of ourselves. Yes, they can be magical, entertaining, enlightening and even educational but like many things life, they also benefit from some moderation, and maybe even a digital fast every once in awhile.
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. – Anne Lamott
There have been times where I’ve forgotten my phone at home and have had really interesting conversations or made connections that I might not have if I was looking at it instead of the world. There have been days where I have intentionally turned it off, or even taken it as step further by covering all the clocks, and mirrors I have at home. It never ceases to amaze me how calming, nurturing and healing even a short break can be. This unstructured “me time” is often the catalyst for new creative inspiration.
So whether it’s a long soak in a hot tub, a leisurely stroll in nature, blocking out time for meditation, contemplation, or daydreaming. Whether you decide to curl up with a great book, spin some vinyl, or concoct a culinary masterpiece, try consciously making space for non-digital relaxation in your day, your week or your month. In the end, you might find it is the most powerful creative tool you have at your disposal.
For it is only framed in space that beauty blooms – Anne Morrow Lindebergh in Gifts from the Sea
Here is a link to a great blog I read, if you need some more ideas regarding unplugging, or limiting your phone use.