Are You Taking Care of the Talent? (or My Biggest Takeaway from Costa Rica)

Thanks to everyone that virtually retreated with us last month! (Missed it? See photos here). And before we get too buzzy with spring activity, I want to share with you my biggest lesson/takeaway from our time together in Costa Rica:

Taking Care of the Talent

This is an industry term in the performing arts, something I first heard while getting ready backstage before a performance. I had asked an employee where I could get some water, and one minute later he showed up with an armful of bottled waters for the whole Green Room. Gotta take care of the talent, he said.

Wow, I thought. The talent. How fancy.

Seeing yourself as “the talent” might feel awkward, but in show biz it’s an easy distinction: multiple people can fetch water, but only ONE person is going to sing the opera, play the concerto, dance the ballet, or perform the stand-up set . And if that person can’t do their job: sing, play, dance or perform-–there’s no show.

For some, this concept can be downright uncomfortable. Many writers feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of other writers out there; we don’t feel special, we don’t feel like “the talent”–we feel like an ant in a swarm of ants all vying for one dropped crumb. 

But (and this part is really important!): we are the ONLY ones who can write our stories. 

Which means in a very real way: we are the talent.

“Taking care of the talent” became our unexpected mantra in Costa Rica. We all arrived fried, covid-fatigued, travel weary, and desperate for the promised “renew, recharge, reconnect”. And almost immediately shoulders dropped, jaws loosened, naps were taken, yoga was done. There was writing–oh yes, LOTS of deep, gorgeous, profound writing. But the most unexpected takeaway was remembering this simple fact: we cannot do our best work, we cannot achieve the heights and depths in our art, if we don’t take care of the talent. 

Self-care is a buzz word these days. But creative care, i.e. caring for the creative person in order to do the creative work, is about nourishing the vessel from which ideas must bubble up and through. If we are a conduit, a lightning rod from ether to earth, the channel by which ideas get down on a page (canvas, music sheet, etc), then we need to do some regular maintenance on the instrument itself.

In this case the instrument is you. 

Sometimes we don’t give ourselves what we need until we are desperate. Sometimes never. But, rather than wait until we collapse from burnout, we can ask ourselves this important question: Am I taking care of the talent? 

Costa Rica retreat, 2022

It became clear for me in Costa Rica that the answer was no. And, if I’m honest, I really never teach anything that I’m not also learning myself.So this season I’ll be taking my own advice and doing my own deep work, caring for the vessel in ways that are easily neglected in the deluge of daily life, and knowing that honoring my commitments to my own creative process will make me a better writer, teacher, and person on the other end. 

HERE’S WHAT I’M COMMITTING TO THIS SEASON (oh, the accountability of sharing it!): 

Daily Walks: This is something I do already, but I am going to make sure that at least 50% of the time I walk alone, chatting with my own creative thoughts (no podcasts!).

Journaling: I already journal every morning, but I’m also going to start using journaling as a transition into the actual writing (right now my journaling time is separate from my writing time).

Artist Dates: I forgot all about these! I need them! We all need them. Even just once a month–something that would delight you. And remember: they should always happen alone.

Napping: Seriously! Sometimes the best thing you can do for your creativity is take a nap. And let’s not forget when you nap you give yourself not one but TWO chances to wake up and write your dreams. Which leads to:

Sleep More: Folks, I’m getting ready for bed  by 9:30 these days. #notashamed #sleeprocks

Move Your Body: I was also reminded of this in Costa Rica–it’s not just about exercise, which is great. It’s about spending some time moving your body and listening to it. Our bodies are full of creative wisdom, if we listen.

Eat Regularly: I tell everyone who retreats with me to eat more and sleep more. Why? Often on a retreat the body is repairing all the damage done in previous months (or years!) For me, in this season, it means eating regularly. It’s too easy for me to sit at my desk for hours, sometimes forgetting to even drink water! Once our blood sugar is wonky (either from not eating or eating too much crap) we are not doing our best work.

Creative Check Ins: I have several people I call regularly (usually while walking) that are my creative check-in people. We chat about our lives, yes, but mostly when the phone rings, I know we are going to be talking about our writing. Having that level of focus with another creative person is extremely motivating, and I highly suggest finding a Creative Check-In Buddy (or three!).

The bottom line, as we awake from our winter slumber is this: Are you honoring the needs of the instrument that is you in order to do your best work? The opera singer takes two days off between performances. Even football players don’t practice on Mondays. 

So much of the writing happens before we ever get to the page! So here’s hoping you give yourself permission to take care of the talent that is you in whatever way your artist needs this season. Write. Rest. Nap. Maybe even schedule a massage. 

If anyone questions you, tell them I said you could!


P.S. If you want accountability–feel free to share how you are committing to taking care of the talent this season! Reply below or come let me know on FB or IG!

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