Spring cleaning for the creative mind

It’s an all too common scenario for the freelancer to find oneself overwhelmed with concurrent projects and trying to prioritise jobs and create timelines to meet specific deadlines. It’s easy to put yourself second when you want to do a great job and make the client happy, and it’s very easy to take on too much responsibility as a freelance creative.

“…and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden” – Joni Mitchell

Over the years I’ve learned to say no to projects that I would love to do but because of prior commitments I realised that my mental health would suffer. I decided years ago that my mental health must be a priority. If my mind isn’t right, if I’m not centred and calm, then my creative output is compromised.

This week, I have the joy of musically-directing Mamma Mia! the musical for the Metropolitan Musical Theatre Company of SA, and my office is the Arts Theatre. I love working in the orchestra pit with my musician colleagues and last night’s opening was indeed a thrill.

The wonderful cast of the Met’s Mamma Mia! | photo by Jennifer Trijo

However, in the technical rehearsal days leading up to our opening, I felt emotionally exhausted and yesterday morning came down with the worst migraine I’ve ever experienced.

Without going into detail, I didn’t look or feel great and I couldn’t even stand or see clearly until about 1.00 pm. Nevertheless, healing began in the afternoon with hydration and a long walk in the sun through the trees. I felt better by about 3.00 pm and “the show went on”, as they say.

The Arts Theatre | photo by Jennifer Trijo

Immersing myself in natural surroundings to balance being in the black hole of the orchestra pit is so important. I sat in my courtyard garden this afternoon with my baby and I just breathed and meditated and it renewed my sense of self for the shows ahead. I think we all underestimate the importance of pause and reflection in the haste of our lives.

More importantly, in these moments is where I find most of my inspiration. I often hear melodies or lyrics pop into my head in the stillness of life where I least expect it. Unless we minimise the clutter in our minds there is no room for new ideas and creative sparks to dwell.

So, my dear creatives, spend some time in the sun and among the trees this spring time (or autumn if you’re in the northern hemisphere) and enjoy a mental spring clean. For more inspiring stories about creatives and mental health, read James Murphy’s column State of Mind.

My Acacia trees have grown a lot in a year

Mamma Mia! is on at the Arts Theatre until Saturday 26 October. Keep an eye out for Issue 4 of The Serenade Files quarterly magazine with more creative inspiration and stories to see out 2019.

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