The ABCs of Chilling Out - An easy formula to let creativity flow
I live in constant fear that I’m going to burn down my apartment.
What causes this neurosis? My stovetop.
Every time I head out the door, I have to check to ensure it’s not on. Even if I haven’t cooked that day. Even though it’s electric and shuts off automatically.
My ridiculous behavior is less obsessive-compulsive, and more motivated by the desire to manage what little in life I can control. Or maybe it’s just my nature: hyper-sensitive, meticulously organized, and a mental multitasker (psychologically or psychotically—depends on who you ask). Or maybe it’s the sweet combination of living with panic disorder and having a Type A personality (which, I assure you, doesn’t bode well for a sensitive empath with a competitive [I prefer “spirited”] and creative soul).
Any eureka moments are swiftly replaced with doubt, then overtaken by a to-do list comprised of essential tasks such as “final layer of varnish on paintings today; follow-up with potential clientele; finish article for CWL,” plus irrational chores including “arrange entire wardrobe by color, from lightest to darkest; figure out which market has the cheapest avocados; Google best technique for bathing a cat.”
All the above yields one question: how does one achieve inner harmony with internal anxiety—and still offer creative output? Or in layman’s terms: how do I calm my brain the f*ck down to actually do what I do for a living?
SIMPLE AS ABC: ALLOW THE ‘TYPE A’ PERSON TO JUST BE, AND CREATIVITY WILL FOLLOW—when it wants, how it wants, and in conjunction with all the stress that precedes it.
Nifty acronym, but how does it look in action?
A The A in ABC may come first, but for me personally, it’s the least important of the three because it’s the most unpredictable. Because it’s a fundamental part of what makes me me, all I can do is accept it. And I’m able to do that with the help of B.
B serves as a reminder to embrace the meltdowns, the panic attacks, the spontaneous desire to rearrange the refrigerator, or get lost down the Wikipedia rabbit hole. I often achieve B through exercise (running is particularly cathartic). Other times, it’s journaling or sketching. Sometimes it’s just sitting on the beach, watching and listening to the waves. Or a carafe of rosé in the sunshine.
It’s not about changing who you are or ridding all that’s on your mind—it’s about channeling it into something softer, lighter, and kinder. Something less intense and more...content.
C Thinking about the creative process in this way is empowering because it makes the physiological tangible; it’s the manifestation of A & B. And when you’re able to thoughtfully relinquish A to the sidelines and purposely reunite with best bud B – that’s where the C(reative magic) is. Let them collectively propel you, humble you, and become portraits of you.
This acronym helps me as an artist. It’s why I continue down this path, even on days when I feel like I’ve failed. Embrace it, be one with it, and kick some a**.
Oh and don’t worry—stove’s off. I just checked.
About the author
Kaitlin Kraemer (b. 1985) grew up in the greater Boston, MA area. She earned her BA in Anthropology and Studio Fine Arts from Union College and received a graduate certificate in Oil Painting from Tufts University. She also completed a summer semester at The Marchutz School of Fine Arts in Aix-en-Provence, France. Prior to becoming a full-time practicing artist, Kaitlin worked in development at Harvard University, and in London at The Courtauld Institute of Art and University of the Arts London.
Over the years, Kaitlin’s artwork has evolved into an abstract exploration of nature vs. nurture, exploring the impact one’s surroundings has on one’s emotional state and physical well-being. Using vivid colors and chaotic brushstrokes, her paintings render the many diverse and contradicting elements that exist in our environment, as well as in ourselves: creation and destruction; tranquility and turmoil; strength and fragility; devotion and neglect – revealing our many beautiful complexities, and challenging viewers to quite literally ‘think outside the box’.
Kaitlin is currently based in Nice, France, exhibiting her work locally and internationally. In addition to her painting practice, she also serves as an Art Advisor for a leading contemporary art gallery in New England.