Our creative work lies open to the impact of what runs in our background. Our background is made up of our: mental, emotional, and physical state of being. If we are way out of whack in one of these three areas, we are in trouble. Our background can suddenly become our foreground, totally making our creative energies disappear. Good-bye deadlines; ideas; patience; and more.

A clear, direct way of keeping an eye on our background state was developed in the 1940s by the people who created Alcoholics Anonymous. Support groups and patients at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio were taught the acronym, H.A.L.T. Each letter stood for a common human condition that has the power to undermine the strongest will and the best laid plans. H.A.L.T. is still being taught today in all sorts of groups.

H.= Hungry
A.= Angry
L.= Lonely
T.= Tired

Hungry – Trying to be creative when you haven’t taken care of your body is very tough. Your body has a simple charge:¬†get what it needs. The brain alone burn’s up a heck of a lot of energy. Getting your background energy doesn’t mean becoming a glutton, but it does mean taking care in when you eat and what you eat. Optimize your creative time by finding the best fuel for you and keep yourself fed.

Angry – Anger is great at tying up 97% of our thoughts and feelings. That’s 97%; What’s left over for our creative work?

Anger is an important emotion and it can lead to action but it has to be watched carefully.¬†Anger management is good for everyone, even those who don’t have a major problem with this emotion. Practice getting a big perspective every time anger pulls you into a tight focus. Work at “turning down” anger a bit, say from an “8” to a “5” on your own internal anger scale. Don’t hesitate to get help with your anger from a friend, a book, a program, or professional help.

Lonely – Probably the single biggest mistake for creatives is doing everything alone which means missing out on the support that is all around us. Surround yourself with supportive people, may that be: support groups, friends, role models, mentors, coaches, therapists, etc. We don’t need to be isolated, doubting, procrastinating creatives. Get friends, get support = more creative energy.

Tired – Like food, the body needs what it needs. Don’t underestimate your need for rest and relaxation. Ignore those suggestions of: “Live on 2 hours of sleep”. Hog wash. Determine your ideal level of sleep as indicated by your body and the freshness of your mind and get it, regularly.

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If we had been at St. Thomas Hospital in the 1940s, we could have added: S = stress or added another A for anxiety. Both of these common conditions trim away so much of our creative energy we would be shocked to see it all stacked up. We don’t have to live with constant stress or routine anxiety. There are many, many options available to manage and avoid each. Find the best fit for you. Do the work. Release the energy for your creative life.

Get your background in good shape and your foreground will really come alive.

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