Updated: Apr 23, 2021
(Below is a script that I used for this episode. I certainly go off script and so you can listen to the episode for more content. You can find 'Toward Creativity' on all popular podcast platforms.)
Hey! Welcome to Toward Creativity - a podcast by Benjamin Harding - that's me. You can find me on instagram at bhardingmusic and on my website benjaminharding.net.
This is a podcast where I explore the immense world of creativity. I hope to also serve as a guide in conversations centered around tips, tools and strategies towards building a sustainable creative career.
Let’s get to it!
This episode is brought to you by - well - me! I don’t have any sponsors yet but I do belong to affiliate programs that you can find on my website at benjaminharding.net under the tab 'gear'. I love these companies and have benefited greatly from their products and services. So go to Benjaminharding.net and click on gear and take a look at some great products from Skillshare, Cunningham Piano and Open Studio Jazz. Let’s get into today’s episode.
As episodes continue to be released, I hope that they begin to give this whole show a shape and a sense to you the listener about what this podcast is about and where my heart is. I have to say that it's going to take time before the messaging of this podcast creates the whole 'w-h-o-l-e' of my heart towards you. I love people deeply and I want to do everything I can to help you succeed in your creative space.
And, if you are discouraged with your creative work, I get it. If are fired up, I get it. I've been there and continue to be on this journey together with you - in this moment of time on the planet. We need each other.
For me, I have to pause and say that I am thinking about developing a course online where creatives learn to set up creative businesses that are profitable and sustainable. If you are interested in being a part of the development of this course and community, please send me a message on my website at benjaminharding.net or on Instagram at bhardingmusic.
The bottom line is that you need to take care of yourself. Your creative practice, your family and the world needs you and your work.
I'm not kidding. We need you.
There was an ancient group called gnostics which believed that the body was bad. They believed that the physical was tainted by corruption. Unfortunately, many in the world still believe what is done in the body, no matter what, is bad. What is good for them is done in the mind and in the spirit. Gnostics would have loved that.
This kind of thinking has pervaded much of western thinking. 'The ideas - now that's where truth really exists', they say. I have heard many espouse this philosophy. It's naive at best and harms at worst, fellow human beings.
Think about how this kind of thinking has effected the arts.
As a practical example, we have all been witnesses of artists and creatives that have totally destroyed their bodies and minds for a false hope that it will help their art.
This is not a good way of thinking.
We live as whole human beings - body, soul, mind, spirit. How you care for yourself as an artist is crucial for the output of your heart.
So - you may need to make some decisions right now. I had to make some radical decisions based on my psychological state and my physical state. They are connected. We are whole people.
As an aside, is it ok for me to advocate that we spell 'holistic' 'w-h-o-l-i-s-t-i-c'. For me it communicates what we are trying to say when we are 'wholistic' beings. It doesn't really make sense to me that we say 'h-o-l-i-s-t-i-c'. Although, I know I have holes
For me, humans are sacred creations. The are made in the Image of God. Imago Dei. This is what my faith teaches. All people are equal. All people are image bearers of God and have creative energies.
Ok - back to the episode at hand.
I go to therapy with a licensed psychologist. I have to exercise everyday. If I don't exercise in some way everyday (except on rest days) it's a disaster for me internally. I have to get rest. I have to follow all of the advice that I am about to put down for you otherwise, my being struggles.
And so today - I want to talk about 6 ways to improve your self-care today as an artist. All of this needs decision points. You need to decide that this is important.
Let me list them off:
Surround Yourself with Positive People
Alright and now to handle them one by one.
Stretch. I like yoga. Shout out to Sean Vigue from whom I learned about basic techniques through him online. It the greatest addition to my fitness routine that I have added. Connecting stretching to strength to breathing is the best thing I could have done.
I am also a runner. I run a lot and this coming week I hope to complete a half-marathon. There are so many resources that are for free on the internet. I use the Nike Run App to go through guided audio runs. They are fantastic. There are also running plans if you want to train for a race.
In the summers, I cycle and in fact, this coming Fall I plan to ride a 100 mile bike ride which is called a century to raise money for one of the causes of my friend.
As a pianist, I try and stay away from activity that would potentially injure my hands. I play tennis and love it! Doing basketball in a team setting is out of the question - so much potential for a jammed finger. I used to play pick up hockey but there wasn't any hitting and no wrist shots or slap shots. We would play outside and would say 'you can't lift the puck.'
Is there an activity that you could do that is outside your craft? I have learned so much on this recent running journey and have been able to apply many things I have learned in the training to my everyday life and creative journey.
Your body needs exercise. Period. What kinds of exercise could you schedule within your daily routine.
Which brings me to my next point. You have to start eating clean.
2. Eat Clean
I was an idiot in my early twenties. I was drinking Mountain Dew, eating pizza, and Taco Bell. My wife has an incredible healthy diet and she directed me towards eating clean. By every measure of nutrition you should not drink soda. After being together for over 16 years, I rarely have any soda. When I do, I feel gross. There is an unnatural portion of sugar within this bubbly drink. Sugar has to go. What goes in becomes your body. If you are feeling tired, check your diet. I don't diet myself. I just try and eat as clean as possible.
Folks - addiction is real. We run to food for comfort just like other substances. My addiction right now is with coffee and I have to go through a process this summer to wean myself off of my caffein dependency. I love coffee. It is the nectar of life. But, if I don't get enough coffee during the day, I get a headache.
Meditation is key for me. My routine depends on it. I meditate in the morning. I have used apps like Abide which enables me to be quiet and go through a guided , Christian meditation. Mindfulness then extends throughout the day. I am more calm and am able to process the day's events better. Meditation is linked to all kinds of physical benefits let alone spiritual and mental. Try it. On my blog there is a post where I talk about getting started with meditation.
Which brings me to an idea that I have. Wouldn't it be cool to work on your creativity and creative process and creative business in community getting constructive feedback from peers and receiving actionable steps in building an online part of your business? I think it would be incredible, that's why this summer I am building a course with a step by step framework to help start building a sustainable career for your creativity. If you are interested in this, please send me a DM on instagram at bhardingmusic or on my website benjaminharding.net to get in on the ground floor and help me building this course and community.
I need sleep. This past fall I was in a bad spot. My running, practicing, and thinking was not going well. During a guiding prayer time at church I prayed that I would be delivered from this haze. The next day I came across sleep types and found out that I was only sleeping about 4-5 hours a night. I was getting up at 4:30am to 5:00am and getting after it. The next evening I got 7 to 8 hours of sleep and I was a new man.
Rest isn't only about sleep though. You need to actively rest to recover so you can be more effective in performing your duties and tasks. I'm a big fan of Michael Hyatt. Please take a listen to his podcast 'Lead to Win' with his daughter Megan Hyatt Miller. He describes the double-win; how to succeed in life and in work. Folks - this is counter-cultural. Overwork is a thing in our culture and in the digital space it is easy to spend all the time on work. This leads to burn out and disaster in your personal life.
This is where hobbies outside of your creative work can be rejuvenating. Recreation - get it - re-creation. It is intended to recover that which was spent or lost in in the output of the week. A sabbath rest is key to growing into who we are as human beings.
5. Think Clean
With meditation you can become more self-aware as to what you are thinking about. Bitterness, contempt, selfishness, envy, jealousy - can rob you of how you are meant to be. Are you thinking clean? I like the idea of filling your mind with great thoughts, pure thoughts and thoughts that propel you instead of thoughts that bring you down. That's why I think it is essential to dwell on the good, the true and the beautiful order for us to express the complexity, which includes some dark and deep things in life, in our creative practice. We need beauty to guide our thinking and refresh and delight us.
Practically speaking, are you thinking negatively or positively about your life and work?
Here's what I have been discovering in therapy and in my running journey. We are a harsh towards ourselves in the self-talk that goes on in our head. If I were to listen to some of the self-talk that you musicians have in a practice session .... right? If you were to jump into my head during a practice session and listen to some of my self-talk you would be appalled and say - hey, that's actually mean and in some cases, abusive. We speak to ourselves internally in harsh ways. We would never speak to our friends in such a way. We need to be our biggest fans, both in the creative process and in the results. Look, this is not arrogance. Narcissistic socio-paths are even aware of this inner-journey, caprice? We need to be a gentle, encouraging friend to ourselves when we are working, learning, and performing.
6. Surround Yourself with Positive People
So funny. But, guess what - if you are surrounding yourself with voices that are consistently negative and tearing you down - get out!
One of my key decisions was to remove myself from groups ahem - musicians - who don't look at life in a positive way. Musicians are notorious for lamenting how little they get paid, and there is no hope for their art, and why can't people see the value in my art and was and wah!
Musicians - there are ways in which you can get paid a lot and at the very least sustainable income is possible, and there is hope for your art and we can create demand for your art in helping folks and new audiences see the value in it. You are just going to have to shut up about your plight and get to work in new ways to build your community, following and business. That's why I'm here!
You can surround yourself with folks that love life! You can surround yourself with people who openly speak about the problems facing us while at the same time create solutions.
I have learned that if folks make fun of my positivity or are just not willing to have energy surrounding ideas and solution - I just leave that group and find people who are supportive. Life is too short to waste it on negative people.
That's why I listen to podcasts with Jocko Willink, Tim Ferriss, Michael Hyatt. Amy Porterfield, Jenna Kutcher. etc. They are willing to create positive outcomes for the people that look to them for advice and care.
And thus ends another episode of Toward Creativity.
And it's our first Bonus episode!
That went by way too fast. Looking forward to connecting with you soon. And we'll talk to you later.