Five ways to maintain your creative wellbeing

9 July 2024
By James Baird

A trip to The Design Conference in Brisbane last month exposed me to the idea that I need a healthier creative balance, in order to sustain the energy and passion for making great creative work.

Turns out being paid to be creative doesn’t make it easy. Just like any other job, money means there are expectations… no matter how good you are.

Last month I visited The Design Conference in Brisbane hoping to be inspired by the best designers, creative directors, and studio owners from around Australia and the world. And I was. There were amazing stories of success alongside a showcase of envy-inspiring work for such coveted brands as Nike, VISA, Optus, Adobe and Apple.

What I wasn’t expecting to hear at The Design Conference were stories of hardship and mental health challenges. Almost every single speaker opened up, sharing their real anxieties, feelings of imposter syndrome, and utter creative burnout. Mat Bogust, Design and Managing Director of Think Packaging out of Aukland held back tears in front of 200 people as he described the difficulty he experienced when relocating from the UK and reestablishing himself, his creative career, and his family, during the Pandemic.

One survey shared at the conference stated that 87% of creatives question whether they’re ‘good enough.’

The stat, while high, resonated because being ‘good enough’ feels like what my job boils down to. The first stage of my job is to interpret the brief. The brief is a word doc. that I’m supposed to understand and digest and then create something aesthetic and appealing from. But then we forget the brief a lot of the time and judge the work purely on the aesthetic response our client has to my work. There’s no other way to do it. Design is emotional.

In design, everything gets judged. Not only the image, the colour, and the typeface but the space between the letters of that typeface gets judged because it’s all intended to cause a response from the viewer. Being open to scrutiny is part of the deal as a designer. And that’s a good thing. That’s the thing that helps us learn & improve. But how do we manage it?

Enter guest speaker Emmi Salonen.

Emmi Salonen is a creative director and author based in London. After starting up her own studio in 2005, she went on to research creative wellbeing and subsequently developed a model to help creatives sustain motivation and improve their creative wellbeing. “Tiny, consistent, habits can carve out pathways for a better creative wellbeing,” she said.

Emmi spoke about the creative process being reliant on two parts: Creative input and creative output.

The output is, of course, the things we make and the things that we get paid for making. But the input is everything that informs, inspires, and sustains our output. Creative input boils down to five things: Connection, Wonder, Pause, Movement and Joy.

 

  1. Connection

Connecting with your values, connecting with others, your work, and yourself helps to give direction and purpose. Practically that means:

  • Being part of something: Workshops, collaborations, mentorships, industry events
  • Set creative goals, big or small
  1. Wonder

Accessing that child-like wonder, being open, curious, taking notice of the little things, feeds creativity and helps find the unusual in the usual.

  • Have a morning routine without technology
  • Walk a new way to work each day
  • Try something new everyday; a new fruit, a new sport, a new way of doing something
  1. Pause

Pausing can be productive. Allowing time to process your thoughts and let ideas marinate, instead of forcing them out. Sometimes the most important conversation is the one with yourself.

  • Book in regular breaks throughout your day. It doesn’t matter how long, 30 seconds or 5 minutes
  • Do something by yourself (a morning walk, reading first thing of the day, being in nature, cooking)
  • One of the great things about working at kwpx is having every 10th work day off. This pause really helps settle my mind and come back with renewed energy.
  1. Movement

Movement can have a direct impact on creativity. Doesn’t matter what it is. Movement helps to build resilience. “Finding fluidity both mentally and physically to maintain resilience when faced with challenges.”

  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Physical activity; swimming, karate, going to a gym
  • We have a weekly run club at kwpx
  1. Joy

Do something that makes you lose track of time. Something that gets you excited. Something without constraints and deadlines. Insert these micro-passions into your daily routine and it should feed into your work.

This research, model and insights were created by Emmi Salonen.

Visit her website creativeecosystem.org/resources for some great free resources on creative wellbeing.

My biggest takeaway from three days in Brisbane is that there won’t be a level of success I will reach in my creative career where I will be immune from internal and external scrutiny. It’s part of the process. BUT, if I pick up some of these habits, I will hopefully build up resilience and adaptability, to be able to deal with these challenges and make some cool sh!t.

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Kwpx is a creative company that specialises in communication, and we respect how important language is to all Aboriginal Australians. As a company that works on Kaurna, Whadjuk Noongar, and Larrakia Country, we want to acknowledge the importance of connection to the Country. We take pride in everything we do and see reconciliation as important work for all Australians.

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Adelaide
Level 1, 251 Rundle Street
Adelaide SA 5000
08 8217 9100
Darwin
The Village Workplace
Level 1, 38 Parap Road
Parap NT 0820
08 8941 1799
FREMANTLE
131 High Street
Fremantle WA 6160
0422 174 663
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