It’s a universal truth: In order to be at your creative best, you need to be at your physical best. It’s something that I’ve heard across so many mediums. Everyone from photographers to writers say that they’re more productive, more creative and more inspired when they’re feeling good. I’ve found that it’s true and I’ll bet that you have, too. When we don’t feel right, we just don’t get much done.
The hard part is, photography isn’t necessarily an athletic activity. Sure, there will be times when you’re roaming in forests or fields, lugging heavy gear bags around and all the rest. And there will be more times when you’re parked in the driver’s seat of your car, driving a long distance to get to your photography destination. You’ll spend hours and hours at your computer, hunched over whatever project you are in the midst of post-processing. You’ll spend yet more hours on the internet, researching and learning. And there will also be offline learning, times when you’re sitting on the sofa, reading a book.
So there are periods of activity and periods where we’re relatively sedentary. From that standpoint, physical wellness can be a tough thing to achieve. But, it isn’t all about the exercise. That’s part of it, certainly, but there’s more to it than that if you want to be at your creative best. Let me lay out some of the things you can do to make sure your creative mind is working as it should.
Make Sure to Eat Well
Eating well is, I think, one of the most important ways to help yourself feel better. Eat too much junk food, and you’ll start to feel lethargic, dull and unenergetic. Though you might feel perfectly fine when it comes to sitting at your computer and doing some post-processing work, that general sense of lethargy is likely to affect your productivity in ways you didn’t anticipate. You’ll find yourself staring at the screen, not getting much done, instead of finishing your project. So, mind your diet to keep the creative gears turning!
Get Plenty of (Regular) Sleep
Now, it seems obvious that plenty of sleep will make you feel better — you won’t be performing at your best on only a couple hours of sleep. But, it’s not just the amount of sleep that you get. It’s the regularity of your sleep routine, too. If you have a tendency to stay up late on weekends and sleep in, you may want to rethink this. While it may be tempting to stay up till the wee hours on a Friday night, these differences in your routine disrupt your sleep cycle and therefore, interfere with the quality of the sleep that you’re getting.
What’s more, the detrimental effects become more noticeable with age. When you’re younger, it may not seem like a big deal to stay up late and sleep in on occasion, but as we grow older, it becomes more difficult to recover from these disruptions. So, whatever your daily routine looks like, try to maintain as consistent a sleep schedule as possible — even on the weekends!
Keep Your Workspace Clean
When we think of wellness, the primary concerns are things like physical fitness and diet, but even things like clutter can have a big impact on the way you think. Imagine a photograph with one key subject, but this photograph has lots of distracting elements that take away from the subject. When you look at it, you spend time trying to figure out what these elements are and how they relate to the main subject. Ultimately, you realize that these elements serve no real purpose — they’re just distractions that interfered with your enjoyment of the subject material.
This analogy applies to your workspace. When you’re brainstorming or when you’re post-processing, a cluttered environment is distracting. You may feel a general sense of dissatisfaction with your setting, or you may spend more time shuffling items on your desk than getting meaningful work accomplished. Either way, the clutter impedes your creativity. So, while a couple of empty coffee cups and a few papers scattered around on your desk might not seem like a big deal, they can interfere with your work. It’s worth your while to spend a few minutes decluttering so that you have a distraction-free area to work.
The same can be said for other distractions, by the way. If you’re one to check email often or browse social media throughout the day, it may be wise to shut your phone off or apply other strategies to eliminate electronic distractions. Think of all the time you put into building a train of thought as you work. Each time that train of thought is interrupted, you lose not only the time that the distraction took from your work but all the time you spent building that train of thought prior to the distraction.
The Many Benefits of Exercise
We all know that exercise is a key part of physical and mental wellness, just like eating well and sticking to a regular sleep routine. But, exercise can also be a good pick-me-up. If you’ve ever found yourself staring at your computer screen, ideas just not coming to you, then a physical jumpstart might be just what you need to jumpstart your creative mind. When these lulls occur, try getting up and going for a walk. Or, you could invest in a small piece of exercise equipment for the home or office so that when you’re feeling lethargic and uncreative, you can easily get up and move around. Get the blood flowing, and the ideas will start flowing, too. You’ll feel more awake, alert and ready to work.
Prepare for the Day
With telecommuting on the rise, one piece of advice is starting to become more common: Get dressed and prepare for the day, just as you would if you worked outside the home.
Now, as a photographer, there will be days when you are working outside the home because, naturally, you’ll need to leave to take photographs. But there will also be other times when you’re back at home doing post-processing or any number of other tasks. For many of us, there is a temptation to spend these home hours in our sweatpants with our hair disheveled because, frankly, it feels good to wear comfy clothes and not spend a lot of time on your morning routine.
But more and more, people are discovering that your outward appearance has an effect on your mindset. Among freelancers, people are noticing that when we can’t be bothered to get ready for the day, we often experience a depressive effect overall. Our productivity suffers, and thus, the quality of our work suffers. So, even though you may not need to leave the house on a given day, give yourself a mental boost in the morning by putting on some non-pajama clothes and getting ready just as you normally would. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel and how much more you are able to accomplish.
There are many, many ways to approach physical wellness, and if you’re looking for ways to improve your creative process, then some of these approaches might be just what you need. The bottom line is that physical wellness helps your mind to work better, so any improvements you can make on this front will help you be more productive and creative!