In addition to our reunion, a few of us presented a session at the conference focused on how to recharge and nourish your own creativity while you are also teaching students, directing, or work in any kind of profession or position where you are giving of yourself in order to help others find their creative spark. It's so easy to lead the way for others to be creative and take care of themselves AND forget to do this for yourself at the same time. Remember that saying "Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others?" Exactly.
Ironically enough, it's so easy to preach this kind of creative self-care advice and then decidedly not follow it yourself. In the spirit of helping you to thrive (and stay sane) during an arts conference or creative community gathering, I put together a few tips and tricks that helped me. Hopefully they will benefit you as well!
1.) Dress for the occasion. If you are headed to an arts conference, most likely you're headed to a hotel and we know what that means: air conditioning. If you are perpetually cold like I am, or even if you're not, it's a good idea to toss a cardigan or a blazer in your bag before you head out the door. You'll thank yourself later!
2. Make like a mom and bring snacks. When I was little, my mom always had gum, granola bars, and a piece of fruit in her purse at any given time in case hunger were to suddenly strike. Follow her lead and pack a small lunch tote with food for the day. It doesn't have to be complicated--just choose a few items that you would happily munch on when you are in need of a snack between conference sessions. Because I'm currently on a very strict diet, the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, to manage psoriasis (I promise to talk a bit more about that in a future post!), I have to be extra mindful of what I can eat when I'm away from the apartment all day. This time around, my snacks of choice were an apple, a sliced cucumber, a thermos of bone broth, plantain chips, and some all natural beef jerky. It was a little bulky to carry around all day, but boy, was I thankful I brought it!
3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Need I say more? No one wants to end up feeling cranky with a migraine when you want to feel your best. So keep drinking!
4. Pack smart. Your strategy for a handbag or backpack will certainly depend upon whether or not you are staying at the hotel where the event is (and thus can return to your room with relative ease) or if you are at a local event where you need to carry what you need for the entire day on your person. I wouldn't recommend too heavy a haul (hello muscle tension), but besides the snacks, water, and aforementioned cardigan, I would suggest bringing just a few more items with you: tissues, pain reliever of your choice, a small notebook and pen for jotting notes, and a few business cards if you have them. You might not use all of these things, but better safe than sorry.
5. Surrender to the whirlwind that is a conference. I have been to quite a few arts events where I have spent more time than I'd like to admit trying to guard my introvert self against the inevitable onslaught of networking, meeting new people, catching up with old friends, making small talk with strangers at luncheons...the list is endless. Does anyone else know what I'm talking about? These days, I can still feel drained by these things, but very recently, I have tried coming to peace with the fact that I am going to be tired at the end of the day. And that's ok! Sometimes just accepting this and not railing against it is enough to soften the edges of a full schedule for me just a bit.
6. At the same time, rebel against the schedule and make space for quiet moments. Artists are known for breaking the rules, right? No one is going to tell on you if you skip the networking breakfast, don't stay for the evening reception or miss a session or two. I love spending time with my creative community at a conference because we have learned to be flexible and agree to skip a session if it means getting some more one on one catch up time or doing some sightseeing if we are in a new place. Don't feel a bit guilty for skipping out on a "should attend" event to get out of the hotel or event center and do something carefree and spontaneous with your people. You will feel better for it. And if the need for solitude drives you to retreat to the nearest bathroom for a bit of quiet? Embrace it, my friends. Many an introvert will admit that finding a hotel restroom is a solid strategy for combating any overwhelm you might feel at a conference. Author and introvert/extrovert expert Susan Cain is one such creative soul who has no shame about seeking some peace and quiet in a bathroom stall.
7. Be grateful. At the end of the day after I get to my room, I make it a point to acknowledge the fatigue AND joy that comes with a big conference or event. I actually say aloud, "I am so tired and so happy." Let's face it, it's a privilege to come together with old friends and meet new people and get to share, troubleshoot, and celebrate the amazing path that is creative work. I believe that when you are grateful, good things follow.
Happy Friday, folks! Hope that as we gently transition from the smack-in-the-middle-of-summer schedules to the slightly-more-regimented fall schedules that this list helps you to remain sane, self-care focused, and inspired. Whether you are headed to a conference, have a big event coming up in your personal or work life, or just need some every day ideas, never feel guilty for taking the time to take care of yourself.
Got any more ideas I should know about? Please share them in the comments!