Last month, I talked about ways to recharge your creative batteries. To recap, I mentioned techniques such as writing when you feel good, writing when you need to express pain, immersing yourself in life experiences, immersing yourself in creative “primers” and surround yourself with the right people. While these suggestions all work well to recharge your creative batteries, if you have a lot of “creative battery drain,” battery charging techniques will not be very effective.
Let’s pretend your creativity is a phone. Sure, you know how to charge your phone, but maybe you have that one app which drains a lot of power. Maybe this hypothetical app gets stuck in a power draining loop. Maybe you keep your brightness at 100 percent. These will all drain your phone’s battery, thus meaning you will need to charge your batteries more. The same can be said about your creative process. You will always have things in your life that cause a lot of creative battery drain. Some of these things, such as work, family, and general life, cannot be helped. However, some of these creative battery drains can be avoided.
Tell me about creative battery drain already!
OK, ok, I get it. You want to know what exactly drains creative batteries. Unfortunately, that’s not an easy question to answer. Just like we all have our own creative battery chargings, we all have our own, unique creative battery drains. I will, however, spell out a few suggestions
Creative Battery Drain #1: Negative Media
I am a confessed Reddit addict. Most days, I feel compelled to see what’s on certain subreddits. I especially get lost in /r/politics, which can be a pretty toxic place. Sometimes I will feel the need to comment on a specific thread. Fast forward two hours, I’m not only getting downvoted to hell, I also have a billion responses telling me I am wrong and a terrible human who should just end my life. I wish I was exaggerating, but I have literally had someone tell me that I should kill myself. If that weren’t terrible enough, they also gave me Game of Thrones spoilers! What a monster!
I’m a fairly sensitive person, and I recognize these negative comments can really get under my skin. Once more, these negative comments drain any energy I might have. I get doubtful of my own writing abilities. After all, if I can’t convince a random stranger on reddit that nuclear power causes more problems than it solves, how can I convince my loyal readers that “We Built This City” by Starship does not deserve the hate it gets? Highly illogical thinking on my part, sure, but I still need to guard my confidence and by proxy, my creative energy. Regardless, I now limit my time on toxic parts of reddit. I don’t go to certain subs if I’m about to write. Period.
Reddit (specifically /r/politics) isn’t the only place that I receive negative feedback. Social media in general can be a source of great negativity. Sometimes replying to a simple article can cause a bout of unexpected negative responses.
So, avoid Social Media when I want to write?
Not necessarily, just proceed with caution. Look at who else has posted comments…what kind of responses are they getting? Are those comments that will cause creative battery drain? If so – then yes, avoid reading and commenting. Likewise, if you know friend X always posts negative comments, consider muting them.
Oh, but what if you really want to comment and you know it will stir up negativity? Here’s a few tricks I use. Sometimes I select the “don’t send me replies” option when I leave comments. This means people can rip your comments apart, and you’ll be none the wiser! Another thing I do, I’ll type out a response, post it, and then delete the response. This gets the response out of my head, and onto the internet (for a few seconds at least). If someone does see your comment, and wants to reply – they’ll get an error message. Mwahahaha!
Creative Battery Drain #2: Not understanding your limits.
A month ago, as I sat at my computer, I had every intention of writing about etymology, and how it relates to the recent debate on the definition of concentration camps. While I was going to be fair and as apolitical as possible, I just knew the timing was not right. I had two other articles to write, and this etymology article would take too much of my time and effort.
Besides, the politics surrounding the topic exhausts me! Figuring out how to write this etymology article in a way where people will see my point, and not just whatever political position they want to see, well…that’s a great feat in itself. That is not to say I could not write the etymology article I want to write, and make everyone see my point. It’s just the added controversy makes the etymology article a “heavy load” and one that would use up too much energy, considering all I had to get done.
A lesson I learned in a college swim class. I could swim X amount and get nothing else done, or I could swim X minus Y amount and get everything else I needed done that day. This lesson applies to anything that requires a lot of energy, be it physical or creative. When choosing what to create, make sure you examine what other creative endeavours you wish to accomplish that day. Can you accomplish everything? After creating one piece, will you be able to finish other pieces? Or will you lie there on the locker room floor, unable to move because you swam a mile?
Creative Drain #3: Interactions with people.
Earlier I mentioned muting “draining” people on social media. Well, you might also mute people in real life. Let’s say a friend wants to have brunch with you sometime this week. They’re going through a messy divorce, and you just know you will feel drained and unable to create after meeting her. While you should have brunch with them – after all, you are their friend and they are going through a hard time, try not to have brunch with them on a day you intend to create.
If you’re an introvert (like me), you know that large groups of people tend to drain your energies really fast. Again, try not to plan on creating on those days you have to interact with a bunch of people.
Of course, there will always be some people you have to interact with, regardless of when you intend to create. There’s that annoying coworker who rants on and on about politics. Your aunt Frida, does not approve of your life choices and will let you know everything you’re doing wrong. There’s even that rude jerk on the bus who insists on talking to you about his religion of alien birds. Most of the time, these people cannot be avoided. With that being said, avoiding those you can avoid means your creative energy reserves drain slower.
Creative Drain #4: Physical Body
Sure, this creative drain sounds like a “no duh” 101ism. Regardless, your creativity relies on your physical body. Have you eaten enough today? Are your clothes comfortable? Is your desk chair supporting your body properly? Do you have a cold? These are all things that WILL affect your creative output. You can’t create if you can only focus on your growling stomach. If your shoes are pinching your toes, and your chair does not give your back proper support, your creative output will be minimized for certain. Oh, and if you’re sick – well, get better! Sure, you have deadlines, but if you can, I highly recommend extending those deadlines.
Taking my own advice, ever since I started AudioPerfecta, I set a goal to publish a main article once a week. I missed this deadline one time. Why? Because I was sick as a dog. Anything I would have written would have been garbage (besides, I had no physical energy). Even if I could move, I would still be forced with a decision: do I want to create garbage, or do I want to save what little creative energy I have, and create something fantastic when I felt better?
Pro tip: Shower, groom, and dress yourself if you plan to create. Your mileage may vary, but if I haven’t taken a shower that day, I am very aware of that “not so fresh” feeling. My hair itches, I feel sweaty all over, and I smell bad. Showering, grooming, and dressing sets me in a stage of “I’m going out and I need to be presentable.” Even if I’m writing at my own dining room table.
Creative Battery Drain #5: Stressful Life Stuff
I already talked about avoiding certain people if possible, or at least scheduling your creative time strategically, so as not to interlap with “draining” people. The same concept goes with life in general. On days you plan on creating, try to avoid mundane, brain draining tasks. Try to schedule your creative times for days you don’t have to, say, work on that boring project for your employer. If you expect to hear your doctor deliver test results that day – you might want to consider rescheduling your creative time. Even something simple, yet stressful, like paying bills might not be a good activity on a day you plan to create.
Granted, some of these stressful life things you cannot avoid – they happen everyday. Still, doing your best to avoid these stressful activities will help your creative process.
While writing this article and the last article, I have used and reused the phrase “your mileage may vary” many a time. Every person is different, and what I view as a creative battery drain might actually be something that charges your batteries. For example, some people actually love to create after doing something boring at work. They get to utilize their creative side when they’ve had to suppress it for so long. So take my advice with a grain of salt. What’s most important is that you recognize what factors in your life drain your creative batteries.
Keep your batteries charged folks, and create amazing things!