Six Habits of Happy Creatives

1. They leave the drama to HBO.
You will get sucked down faster than a cold beer on a hot day when you engage in the dramatic dealings of certain people. I’m not naming names; you know who they are. Everyone knows who they are. Heck, THEY know who they are. It’s just not worth it. It’s like wrestling with a pig: all that happens is you get dirty and the pig likes it. Yeah, you have to pay for the drama on HBO, but at least when you’re done, you can turn it off.

2. They exercise and eat right all the time, except when they don’t.
I saw a billboard once that read, “People busier than you are exercising right now.” I remember it was a billboard for exercise clothes. I also remember I was eating ice cream at the time and my mouth was full when I said out loud that that was a genius slogan. And the people who thought it up should be wrapped naked in a wet sheet and stuck on top of Mount Everest overnight. We all know that exercise and a healthy diet is ideal but sometimes, it’s not possible. Salad one day-cheeseburger the next. That’s how it works. It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to create great stuff if you eat a slice of pizza instead of, say, a handful of kale. Sure, there’s a mind body connection, but it doesn’t always work the way you think it does; sometimes, it works in reverse. If a creative person desperately craves chocolate, he/she might not be free to create until the craving is met. Don’t ask me how I know this.  And don’t ask me why I always have Almond Joy bars in the pantry.

3. They don’t try to be someone else.
We all have people we admire. There are certain folks so brilliantly creative that I wish I could crawl up inside their brain and live there. Just a tiny studio apartment in their brain with a futon and a Keurig where I can look out the window and watch their thoughts whiz by.  But as much as I admire them,  I don’t want to BE them; I want to be me, warts and all. Besides, once I crawled out of their brain I’d be covered with brain stuff and that could ruin my outfit.

4. They zone out.
All day long, we have information hitting us: ideas, schedules, memories, problems, stories…everything keeps coming in and unless we stop and zone out to empty our minds and settle our thoughts, we become the mental equivalent of “Hoarders.” And that’s not pretty.  Now, you don’t need a special “Zoning Out Zone,” but I find it helps. Mine is the bathroom. I go inside at the end of the day and shut the door. And then I lock the door. And then I turn on the music really loud. And then…I zone out. I thought about painting the floor with yellow diagonal strips to indicate the “Zoning out Zone,” but figured that might be taking it a bit too far.

5. They always try to JBC aka “Just Be Cool”
As Billy Crystal pointed out in “When Harry Met Sally,” there are 3 types of people:

High maintenance
Low maintenance
And high maintenance who think they are low maintenance

You really can’t help the category you fall into; that was pretty much decided in the womb, but you can dial back the emotions when you start to lose the coolness. YOU HAVE THAT POWER. Nobody makes us lose our cool; we do that all on our own. Unless you’re a Happy Creative, in which case, you chill.

6. They embrace the 11th hour.
I have a saying that sort of guides my creative life: “If it wasn’t for the 11th hour, I’d never get anything done.” Now to some, that motto might be a sign of a highly unorganized, unmotivated individual. But they would be only half right: Unorganized? Maybe.
Unmotivated? No way.
Many creatives are like this; they might whine and moan about having to meet a deadline, but they get a kind of high from working under pressure. It FORCES them to pull from somewhere deep within to come up with an idea or finish a project and, although they won’t admit it at the time because they are crying and pulling their hair out in frustration, they love it: the scattered coffee cups, the race to the finish holding imagination’s hand. And as they watch the sun rise from their desk after pulling an all-nighter, they can’t help but grin that they pulled it off and made something great.