And why I haven’t felt creative in a while.
I realise I haven’t posted a blog for a while and I’ve really missed it.
Having a creative pursuit and starting a blog was always something I wanted to do. It is a passion. Then I became run down with illnesses that I couldn’t shake. The kids got sick with never ending colds and then I started a part-time ‘real job’ in marketing. Suddenly my energy levels and motivation to blog completely evaporated. It meant that this blog business had to be put on the back-burner.
Family and health come first, but I have found it harder than I expected to strike that delicate balance between the practical realities of life and pursuing my creative passions.
It got me thinking. How do creative types maintain the flow?
A creative outlet is one of the most authentic ways to find joy in life. Whenever you’re working on a project, creative or not, that truly inspires you, you’ll activate your ‘flow state,’ where time and space seem to stand still. It truly is the sweet spot.
A side project can make you happier, healthier and more productive. In an article written for Lifehacker, Kevan Lee says that side projects and creative hobbies help stop the ‘work hard, spend more, work harder’ cycle and nurture a more creative and fulfilling version of down time.
According to Keven Lee, the key to creating a sustainable side project is three things:
Low risk, low pressure and love.
Low-risk – There is not too much to be lost if you fail or decide you don’t want to do it anymore.
Low-pressure – You aren’t going to be stressed out when you do it – or don’t do it as the case may be.
Love – You have got to LOVE doing it. Not just kind of like it or do it just because your friend wants you to.
Easier said than done.
When I launched Coast & Country Life blog, I had no idea where it would take me. I just wanted to express some creative ideas in an online forum and hopefully, create a community of like-minded folk. I was eager to create something for myself that wasn’t to do with parenting or child rearing, or my profession.
Within a month of starting this blog, life got in the way majorly, and it all ground to a major halt. Suddenly I was too busy and depleted to write and create. I felt completely unmotivated. I simply couldn’t find the energy to get going again. How did I get here?
Thankfully, I’ve since got my writing mojo back, but it got me thinking about creativity and side-projects generally, and how people successfully keep them going. It can be challenging at times to push yourself out of your routine and get that energy flow to make and create something and to keep going even when times get tough.
I started reading about how high levels serotonin and dopamine are present in creatively successful people.
To be truly ‘creative’ we need creative energy. Creative energy is prompted and maintained by many elements, including diet, exercise, and environment, but also your levels of serotonin and dopamine. So if you have low levels of these hormones you are not going to feel very creative. Which completely made sense to me. Being sick and tired had created a dip or a depletion of these two essential hormones for my creative motivation.
According to an article in Inc Magazine, by Baba Shiv, a marketing professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, with an interest in the science of creativity,
“Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for how we feel between feel calm and anxious and the second, dopamine responsible for our state between bored and engaged. Low levels of serotonin cause us to become anxious and fearful whereas high levels of serotonin allow us to feel calm and relaxed. Low levels of Dopamine will leave us feeling bored and disinterested whereas high levels will mean we are engaged and interested. Therefore, to be at our best when it comes to getting creative we need high levels of both Serotonin and Dopamine.”
In order to optimise creativity we need to:
a) Avoid stress
Stress increases the stress hormone cortisol, which inhibits serotonin production, which makes us more likely to feel anxious or fearful when we want to get creative.
b) Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep reduces your serotonin and dopamine levels. It’s essential to get at least 6 hours every night – and if you can’t due to a baby or child, don’t schedule or expect to be at optimum creative levels the next day.
c) Eat right
What you eat affects these levels too. When you wake up your serotonin levels will be at their highest, and a coffee will boost them. A high protein breakfast such as yoghurt or eggs and toast is a perfect choice.
Alcohol is also a depressant and can deplete serotonin levels so if you need creative clarity leave the vino in the fridge!
Go for the tyrosine-rich foods. Tyrosine is the building block of dopamine and can be found in many foods including: Almonds, avocados, bananas, beef, chicken, chocolate, coffee, eggs, green tea, watermelon, yogurt.
Movement and exercise prompt the release of a peptide that produces serotonin. That is why people become addicted to high impact work-outs. But a note of warning that excessive workouts can actually start to deplete serotonin. If you were to take a 40-minute bike ride every day for five days running you would start to boost your serotonin base and creativity levels.
This explains so much and helps me to understand how to maintain a level of creative energy.
I truly want to keep this blog alive, but to continue to write and enjoy it, I must keep the happy hormones going too.