We've all had those magical days when you're just there - you're in the zone with little effort rocking out some amazing work. But then there are the days where, despite your best intentions, you're just too distracted to get anything even remotely productive done, or worse, you're putting in the hours and churning out less than stellar work. There are many different tricks that people use to get into their zone on creative days, like listening to their favorite music or burning candles, etc. But really, I've found that the best tactic is to plan ahead. If you get ready for your creative endeavors beforehand, you'll save yourself a lot in the way of time and energy. And if you give your body and mind the fuel it needs to stay focused, then getting into the zone will be that much easier. Here are the big areas that I like to focus on in order to rock out some awesome artwork (and this goes for any other kind of work too).
It's hard for me to work when I get hungry. I lose patience with myself and the progress that I am making. I rush things, make spontaneous and usually poor decisions, and get distracted. When I've eaten well, it frees up my mind and body to focus on my creative goals instead of its survival needs. This may seem like a no brainer, but prepare meals or snacks ahead of time and make a big healthy breakfast day of. I often cook an extra portion at dinner the night before, so that I can have a quick and healthy lunch solution that just needs to be heated up.
Drinking herbal teas (or coffee).
This has become a part of my creative ritual as I have said before. Prior to setting up my palette, I put the tea kettle on the stove and pick out the most appropriate brew. Usually that includes either a green tea, peppermint tea, yerba mate, or my favorite blend of the three from Whole Foods. Since it's one of the best ways to access the vitamins and minerals found in herbs, it usually keeps the hunger at bay. I like to drink teas that are uplifting, energizing, but with little or no caffine (because it makes me jittery, tense, makes my thoughts race, and I get hungry faster). I know most of you will probably disagree with me on this one, hence the "or coffee." If coffee gets you going without the side effects, then do it. Coffee is healthy too.
Getting enough sleep.
For those of you who might still be in school or who have a day job and create art on the side, I know you are probably rolling your eyes at this one. Hey, I used to pull all-nighters, too! But if I'm tired, hungover, or generally out-of-sorts, it becomes really hard to focus. If I am planning to get creative the next day, I try to get a good night's sleep, so that I can be fresh, focused, and energized. It just goes without saying that if I've been out late, then I probably won't be working on creative projects the very next day, because it's usually a waste of time.
Here's the thing, if I stand in place for hours without moving around (and this happens a lot when I'm really focused on painting), my leg muscles start to get really tight and that makes me feel stiff and anxious. My solution? I paint for a couple of hours and then take a quick workout break. This is also a great move, if you start to feel tired or sluggish or if your focus is lagging. For me, I usually do a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session that takes about 12 minutes - 12 Minute Athlete was my best discovery this year! Seriously! After standing still, it feels so good to get the blood flowing, move around, and work up a good sweat. It also really helps me clear my head after a paint session so that I can break away from my work and focus on other projects.
This goes right along with working out. I don't go to a yoga studio, but I do like to stretch and practice mindful breathing before and after I work out. So working out and yoga kind of go hand in hand here. Usually I just do a couple of Sun Salutations, but I have been known to do some longer strength building sessions from time to time and you could certainly replace a workout with a longer yoga session to get the same effect. Either way it feels darn good to stretch out those legs!
The bottom line here is: commit to your creative time a day in advance, not only will you be more productive that way, but it will be easier to create a routine around it and turn your creative time into a full on creative practice.