On slowing down and the sloth metaphor
My month in images
How to overcome blockers and stay creative
A while back I wrote an article on what it takes to unblock creativity. Read it fully here.
Remember to give yourself those moments when you create just for the sake of creating. Have fun with it. PLAY is the best antidote to anxiety, boredom, demotivation, everything really. In between jobs, admin work, emails and figuring out what to do next, make space for the artist in you. I do not believe that we are as good as our last work. Just as life and personal growth are non linear, so is our ability to create. We are an accumulation of experiences. We all have good days and bad days, and it’s normal they affect our productivity, so I think it’s important to be mindful of both. Set long term goals that are really YOU and move your energy in that direction. Wander through museum and art exhibitions, study film, fashion, photography, street art, family roots, pay attention to the sky and bees pollinating, hug a tree. Explore your aesthetics and find what makes your heart thrive. And if you find yourself deeply stuck, just give it time and have as many breaks as you need. Creativity will come back.
On slowing down and the sloth metaphor
2022 has been a hard year to digest for many of us, with lots of questions and stuck emotions coming to surface on top of everything else. We are essentially in recovery mode from the past two years, yet we are trying too hard, consciously or unconsciously, to make up for them like there is no tomorrow. And it's exactly this pressure that we put on ourselves that overwhelms us and ultimately leads to physical and mental exhaustion.
A few stressful events, the scarcity of jobs, my desire to bring meaning and quality projects (and people) into my professional life and the internal push to do more and more were the perfect mix to trigger a heightened anxiety. And so I found myself in the exact scenario I was mentioning above, depleted of energy, properly burned out. I struggled with this a lot, aware of my body's needs, yet not really meeting them, until I realised all I needed was REST. And by this I mean proper rest, both physical and mental, not just fooling myself with temporary solutions, but also, most importantly, being patient with it. Burnout will not disappear in a blink of an eye, especially if it's been going on for a while. It needs nurture and a change of mindset (and probably lifestyle as well).
What allowed me to connect even more with slowing down was this super fun and insightful TED talk on sloths. I had come across it a while back, yet it was this particular moment in time that I needed it the most.
As Lucy Cooke points out, sloths are misunderstood animals who have no place in the fast-paced race for survival. They are actually quite successful animals and in some ecosystems considered to be the most numerically abundant large animal, so surely they must do something right. They have evolved through energy saving and they are only busy digesting. The key to their success is their slothful nature.
“We humans are obsessed with speed. Busyness is a badge of honor, and convenience trumps quality in our quest for quick. Our addiction to the express life is choking us and the planet.”
“We now think that a low metabolism may well be key to surviving extinction.”
“How about we all embrace our inner sloth by slowing down, being more mindful, reducing wasteful convenience, being economical with our energy, recycling creatively and reconnecting with nature?”
So if going back to normal means embracing the fast paced rhythm again, or even exceed it, thanks but no thanks! I'll hold on to my sloth and take time to digest (pun intended), while trying not to beat myself up when I don’t succeed.
Industry insights - YOU are not your SPEED
Since we've been talking about mastering the art of slowing down (yes, nowadays this is an art!), I'm going to go a step further by addressing this topic within the creative industry. Since I've been plunging into the make-up world a few good years back, I've kept on hearing, directly or indirectly, most often bluntly and incisively, that we as make-up artists need to be swift (to put it nicely) in order to survive the beast. This has been propagated all over again, until it became a fact (like many other things). I too fell for it, and would think part of my worth as an artist relied on how quick I was, until I realised I am just playing by some rules that I believed were detrimental not just to me, but to the whole industry.
I am not the quickest yet definitely not the slowest. Some days I can naturally be faster than my average (and sometimes furious, but that's another story), and there are days when, due to different circumstances, I am slower and that's ok! There are also days when I just want to take my time, for example, when I have a client that I feel needs some extra pampering, or when I would like to focus on the creative process rather than on quantity and speed.
As much as I am not advocating for taking hours to create a look (unless, you know, it's a complex body paint), don't feel less of yourself if you have a bad day or if you are not Speedy Gonzales gone wild. Be reasonable with your time and with the specificities of the job, and be assertive with why you might need a bit more time for certain looks.
Here are some extra notes on this:
We are not our speed, we all have good days and bad days, and most of all, we are creatives, not machines.
Yes, some people are faster than others and that's ok. Don't let that get in your way and focus on your strengths.
Just like life itself, our creative endeavours are to be enjoyed, not to be survived. This goes for any kind of job.
I see and hear quite a few brands, small or big, that promote and identify with a slow and ethical way of living, yet there is nothing sustainable about the way they treat people on set. They often set unrealistic goals, which in turn generates a lot of pressure to perform at the speed of light. How often have you felt completely drained when you got home from a job? What would it take for that to change? Envision a world where we can all take (some) time to accomplish something, to speak or to act. How would that world look like for you?
If we want the (fashion) world to slow down—so we can live and breath a little, instead of just spinning the hamster wheel—then feeding into the fast paced environments is not the solution. It’s in our power to change this mindset and we will all be better with it.
This is just one aspect of the industry that we are taught to take as it is, one that, I believe, plays an important role in destabilising self worth and mental health. More on these stories in a future newsletter. It's a date!
Recent findings that sparked my interest
A book: The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
You know that kind of book that you devour, yet at the same time you find it difficult to make peace with it coming to an end? Shafak's writing is a splendid, rich and insightful school of thought. Set in the context of the conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, the book is a lesson (the kind I would have loved to be taught in school) on history, nature, religion, zoology, cultures, transgenerational trauma, grief, belonging and love. Above all, this book is a profound exploration and an ode to the natural world. I LOVED it!
A podcast: Huberman Lab
Andrew Huberman is a neuroscience professor at Stanford University with one foot in the scientific realm and the other in the wellness domain. I love the diverse range of topics he addresses, but also that he is going deep into subjects like brain-gut connection and nutrition. Although I need to focus 150% to get my head around some of the content (he's a science nerd and most of his podcasts are longer than 2 hours, so imagine that!), I'm hooked on his ability to make complex topics accessible and actionable. He stretches my brain and I often experience aha moments during his talks.
A product: Nini Organics Natura Detox Foam
I'm a fan of Nini Organics products in general, but this one is my current favourite. I love its creamy foamy texture, green colour and how silky my skin looks and feels after using it. No wonder it contains broccoli powder (amongst other great ingredients), as it feels like a smoothie on my face. A winner for my combination skin.
A movie: Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time
For all of Vonnegut's fans, but not only, the documentary is a beautiful and tender portrayal of a playful and unconventional writer, cynical yet deeply insightful, for whom laughter was the most at hand and powerful antidote to life and his own wretched circumstances. Most probably one of the best documentaries I've seen. Certainly one of the most profound. Be ready to be touched.
Let me hear your thoughts
How do YOU disconnect to reconnect? And how do you feed your creative spark?