The other week there was a new comic published by The Oatmeal that discussed creativity. I love the way Matthew Inman illustrates and explains various concepts, from philosophic to red velvet mites, and his thoughts on creativity were like a cool breeze on a hot, sticky day: refreshing.
I know that many creatives have been struggling over the last several weeks, unable to bring themselves to do what they usually do. I, on the other hand, have had a lengthy period of being unable to focus and write because there was too much else going on in my life. Now? Life feels slowed down. It is helpful (perhaps a poor word choice) that the pandemic coincided with my spring break. And, while my job is considered “essential” during the state’s new “shelter at home” order, we’re looking at less hours due to our supply chain drying up.
All of this diminishing of duties and obligations means that I suddenly feel more creative. I feel less pressure from thoughts of “I should write,” and more thoughts of, “Oh! I want to write about that!”
Even the long-languishing embroidery project from the Oubliette of Forgotten Projects has had a great deal of progress made on it over the last week because my thinking shifted from “I should work on that,” to “I want to work in that.”
That shift in thinking has been helpful for a lot of things in life. For example, when we learn to drive, we often see drivers become upset when approaching an intersection and the light turns red before they can make it through on the yellow. Some years back, Mr. Muse, in just such a situation, said, “YAY! First in line!” I looked at him, bewildered, and laughed. He explained that he’d overheard someone else comment about changing their attitude and reaction in just such a situation, so he was trying it.
Since that moment, “YAY! First in line!” has stuck whenever we come up to an intersection as the lights change. It makes us smile. It makes us laugh.
In another example, I was out and about one day and overheard some people make a nasty comment about a large person out exercising. The subject of the ridicule was being admonished, thankfully not directly, for deigning to wear tight-fitting fitness clothes. I chose that moment to say, “Good for them on getting out there and moving!” Admittedly, that social conditioning is strong and society continually tells us we should be disgusted by people who are overweight and obese. I remind myself that I, too, was once a large person, that I don’t know that person’s story, and good for them! I am happy to say that changing that way of thinking and being vigilant about it has corrected my formerly automatic response for the better.
While our world faces the perils of a pandemic, I think it’s important to grant ourselves some kindness. Some people are terrified, others scared, more still have varying degrees of anxiety. Everyone is dealing with this situation in different ways, being more creative or being less creative. Whatever route you are taking – it’s okay.
Believe me, as someone who recently had a discussion with my doctor about anxiety, was asked why we never discussed it before, and responded, “Because I always handled it.” I get it. My anxiety was planted in youth and blossomed in my college years. I’ve been turbo-charged by adrenaline since then. Oddly, I’m not anxious about the pandemic – but I’m anxious about just about everything else. Anxiety is weird. I had anxiety about asking for help with my anxiety (mostly because it really pissed me off). It’s also not doing my heart any favors, so, it’s now being addressed. (Also, it seems that I’ve discovered the root of my inability to relax, so that’s nice.)
Anxiety is often helped with breathing exercises, breathing in the calm, breathing out the anxiety. Just like Matthew Inman points out in his comic, creativity is like breathing. Breathing in life, breathing out the art. Whether you find yourself on the inhale or the exhale with your anxiety or creativity… it’s okay.
What have you been feeling since the declaration of the pandemic?
How are you taking care of yourself?
Are you holding your breath or are you breathing?