Stoner Self-Help: Creative Life Hacks
I’m not the type of artist our culture likes to tell you is most common, or most likely to succeed. I didn’t start making art very young, when I began to seriously devote myself, I didn’t have any evident talent, and I’m not concentrated in any particular discipline. I don’t have a gift. This not-gift, however, has forced me to figure out how to develop my creative life logically rather than intuitively, which means I can hopefully articulate and pass on some of my strategies and hacks for staying on track with your artistic dreams. Everyone’s ride is totally different, but I hope some of my tips will apply to your trip or point you in a helpful direction!
The overall idea to my artistic strategy is to find a flow, a state of being that allows you to be as creatively productive and satisfied as possible, and to meaningfully tailor every aspect of your life to the flow until there is minimum resistance. I spent years suffering from artist’s block because I had compartmentalized my creative life. It was separate from my day to day activities and attempting to transition between them was usually jarring. I was typically paralyzed with fear that I couldn’t create anything good again, that last time had been a lucky fluke because I wasn’t flowing between projects. A lot of my tips are not directly related to art but were a part of streamlining my flow to eliminate blocks and feel mostly peaceful.
Obviously, social media is a huge part of a lot of artist’s lives. We need to share our work with as many people as possible. It feels good to connect with other artists and fans! However, I can sometimes start to disperse my positive attention into distraction.
1) Mute all notifications on your phone except texts and phone calls. This isn’t just for social media, but I would be getting mostly Instagram notifications if I left them on. It might feel scary to think you might miss an important message or comment, but most likely you check the app enough anyway that you wouldn’t miss a professional opportunity. Other than that, what is worth interrupting your flow?
2) Regularly re-curate your feed. About once a month I go through all my followers and Marie Kondo them- “does following this person give me joy?” If the answer is no, they’re interrupting my flow. People who frequently put up heavy political posts are not what I’m talking about. Joy can be mixed with pain too. I’m saying axe anyone who you’re hate following, make you feel bad about yourself, aren’t relevant or interesting to your imagination, etc.
3) If you need to hammer down on a project, consider deleting all your social media apps off your phone until you’re done. I usually do this for one of my days off, and although sometimes I feel like a social tweaker trying to press a button that isn’t there, I know it’s good for my brain to disrupt that wire to the world.
It took me until this year to understand that I don’t owe anyone anything (besides an obligation to all the humans on the planet for my contribution to an environmentally sustainable and socially meaningful world, ugh). In my younger years I frequently fell into the trap of believing that if I had established a connection with someone, I owed them as much of my time and energy and loyalty as they needed so long as they didn’t do anything to hurt me. It’s still really hard for me to say no to people in general, let alone people I care about! But at the end of the day, your friends aren’t a charity (there are real charities that deserve your time if anything), people should be happy to forge a relationship with you on your terms as well as theirs, and it can be helpful to try to reorient your relationships from time to time.
1) Make a list organization freaks! Go through your phone and divide up your friends between will always be there for me, don’t see enough, and takes up too much energy. Try not to think about their baggage or your history for a second and try to remember whether you usually leave their presence feeling energized or drained. I’m not saying you should cut all the people out of your life that don’t reinvigorate your creative vision (although give the axe to subtle abusers), but think about how you can shift more of your energy towards the people who help make you your best self.
part b) If you feel overwhelmed by social obligations and all the people you never Skype, text back, actually hang out with, etc., consider throwing a little party at the end of the month, tell everyone way in advance, and see if you can’t see some of these people at the same time. Maybe they’ll hit it off too, and you’ll start some new connections! It’s likely that some of the people who are always on your case about not seeing you won’t actually make it out, which is no shade on them, but it might relieve some of your social anxiety to know you made the effort. I don’t know if anyone else’s anxiety works like this…
part c) Opposite situation. If you feel like you don’t have as many people you can connect with as you want for your creative flow, or if you’re realizing you’re surrounding yourself with a lot of people who are not challenging and sustaining you, make a list of all of the people you know who are really cool but you’ve never talked or don’t know very well. Ask them out to lunch or propose a creative project!
I’ve made at least half of my Seattle friends doing this. I first saw DoNormaal play the Crocodile with Princess Nokia. She was so fucking cool on stage, I had to devise a plan to meet her! I spent several hours creating an animated portrait for her, and when she said she liked it, we decided to collaborate on her merch. This might sound like a lot of effort, or like I was trying too hard, but as an artist who puts a lot of time and energy into my work, I sure as fuck appreciate people who put time and energy into establishing a relationship with me, and most people will admire your boldness and sincerity. Don’t leave your reality up to chance, manifest the squad of dreams!
part d) The best thing you can do for everyone in your community’s creative flow is throw shows! Art shows, music events, poetry readings, mushroom projection parties, doesn’t matter! Please invent a new genre, we all need it! Throw events or join the team behind an event you love and make it happen, you’ll feel creatively supercharged while also mixing lots of energy with other souls. If you feel daunted, plan something small for a couple friends you know would appreciate an intimate art experience.
We all have them right? Some people say artists especially. Or if you don’t, I don’t believe you! As a productivity perfectionist, I often struggle with wanting to eliminate my vices entirely, which include burrata cheese, Rieslings, gin and tonics, cigarettes, IPAs, fashion magazines, Sex and the City, etc. However, I’ve found that if I put perfection aside as the goal and put creative flow up on the pedestal instead, it’s much easier to enjoy all of these things in a way that is exceptionally functional and not vice-like at all! For example, if I want to do acid on the weekend, I’m going to do it on Saturday. As a trade, I’m going to stay in, not spend any money, and work on art on Friday. I’m basically doing enough art for Saturday and Friday in one night, and I get the added creative benefit of dancing my ass off the next day. FLOW BABY.
The key here is pairing your vices with your artistic flow. This example actually doesn’t work as well if I insert Sex and the City for acid. This would mean my second day is spent laying in bed watching TV all night. The better way to incorporate it into my weekend would be to watch Carrie’s tendons shorten to nubs while I wash the dishes. As you can see, you can actually combine these two things trade activities and have both your vices in one weekend! If you seriously only allow yourself to indulge when you’ve earned it, and it makes sense, and not as bullshit self-care (more on self-care later) you’ll find yourself structuring your life so you have the most fun and get the most done as possible!
There’s a lot of buzz about self-care and what is healthy and what isn’t. I’m first going to agree with the Satanists and say “do what thou wilt,” only you know what’s best for you! However, I find that a lot of tips in this department are fairly consumerist and revolve around things you can buy that will make you feel good. I am more of a tough love person, especially to myself. I find that focusing on self-care actions that are a purposeful pause to adjust your flow is the best way to fulfill my compassionate obligations to myself.
We don't want to end up having a mental breakdown again because all the dishes are dirty and you can't make any food...so let's take 15 minutes to do some dishes and listen to Fleetwood Mac.
You can kind of project this principle out and see how you would apply it to your own life. To further the example, music is a big part of my self-care. Sometimes I feel a pressure to be in a state of "keeping up" with music as a cultural and societal force and factor. However, we are in a rare time in human history where we can pick most of the music we hear instead of being limited to whatever is played live nearby. I find meaning in honoring the culture I want to create in my mind, which has uniquely chosen themes and vibrations and tones. If I want to only listen to Junglepussy and Alice in Chains and Italian disco instead of all these new albums out while I work on a drawing, that's a part of self-care, and I reserve the right to moderate my mood with what I'm listening to when necessary.
I do think it's important to keep your finger on the pulse of your community and out to the world, but it's critical to my mental health that I let go of the idea that I can ever keep up with all of the moments being lived on the Earth at once. Sort of like learning history, I can in some ways get closer to understanding everything by deeply understanding a few things and their contexts.
The other form of self-care I highly recommend is creative organizing. If you are one of those people who excel at this naturally, I suppose your self-care might include taking breaks from using your gift. However, as a really messy person, I've found that a great way to take care of myself is blocking time to get truly blazed, put on dance clothes and an apron (to hold all my vice supplies), and pick a section of my apartment to "improve." I think of it as improving because I tell myself the goal isn't exactly to make it clean or look aesthetically pleasing, but just to have it be better. Improved. This makes it more fun and allows me to think of cleaning and organizing as a creative act, and I don't lose as much shit, and everything is improved!!
Side note: My life hack for organizing clothes, makeup and jewelry is to separate out everything you would want on a two-week trip, and then add maybe two things in each category (lipsticks, jeans, etc.) that is something you "aspire to wear more." Put the rest in boxes and hide them somewhere. You will always see your favorite things first, unintentionally start rocking signature looks, will actually wear those things you tell yourself you should wear more, and have less laundry to do. Or less makeup to paw through at 10pm when you're already late to where you're going.
There’s a lot of opinions about what you should and shouldn’t be doing… fuck em.
There’s a lot of opinions about what you should and shouldn’t be doing for workouts, eating, sleeping, skin care blah blah blah. Take out a piece of paper and write out what is most important to you (flexibility, hydration, glowy skin, running fast) and keep it somewhere like your bathroom to remind you what YOU care about and why and maybe think about how to adjust your flow incrementally to support getting all your projects done AND feeling fantastic. Or at least less shitty.
This can be the biggest flow blocker, right? How are you going to balance your vices if you can't afford them? Stop going out with those toxic friends if your habit is to blow all your money at the bar? Navigating our relationship with money in capitalism is painful and disorienting. All I know is if you can manage your money you can handle your freedom and it's easier said than done.
I use an automatic savings app that takes money out of my bank account, and I can only get it back with several days notice. At first, it gave me anxiety but I have it set to tiny amounts, and it helps me save money when I can see a savings account that is not nonexistent.
Food is one of the most fickle parts of my budget. I love cooking and eating delicious shit so much it's easy to spend hundreds of dollars on midnight snacks. Nothing like a giant piece of carrot cake and coffee to make me want to lay in bed and draw all morning. After lots of trial and error, I've actually found that if I schedule going out to a restaurant with a friend or my partner at the beginning of the week, it's actually easier not to go out randomly. The counterbalance is buying good enough shit for my fridge that I stick to it while also not turning my kitchen into a restaurant.
As a means of transition, I also like to use food for celebration and separating that out intentionally. Celebration is a beautiful, creative tool that capitalism loves to enslave to its destructive purposes. To counterbalance this, I try to save eating and drinking as an event for my intentional celebrations. The release of a new project, the full moon, a friend moving to town, arriving in a new city... not things like Friday, getting paid... holidays.
Another flow enhancing concept that has helped me is embracing the natural rhythms and integrating them into my life. For example, it's unrealistic to say, "I'm going to work on guitar every day for an hour for the rest of my life." But challenging yourself to an hour a day for that winter only with the idea that you may want to adjust for the next season, is more natural and conducive to inspiration and creative flow. I set aside time to meditate on the current moon cycle as it shifts and set intentions and goals based on that, rather than the arbitrary capitalist limitation of weeks. It can feel like setting yourself to a more natural clock will cause you to fall behind, but tuning in has always helped me access my inner power, connection with the environment and eased my existential anxiety!
All of these tips are not about controlling your creative consciousness but about directing its energy with subtle shifts that ultimately manifest the artistic life of your dreams!! I recommend all of this while also being sure to give yourself a break when you feel off track. To me, the point of art is channeling the chaotic energy of humanity, and you have to fall down and smell the ground pretty often!
The key to a creative existence is staying in the flow. Think of everything in your life, your job, your friends, your habits as a part of a stream and intentionally direct it where you feel most inspired. If you live your whole life in search of meaningful satisfaction you probably won't have too many regrets even if you never find it, eh?