Do your part. Stay home. Make art.
This is all I have been thinking about for the last week. Every news source is talking about Coronavirus/COVID-19 constantly. Social guidelines keep changing, and people are hoarding toilet paper and clearing grocery store shelves (why?! please stop!). We are in a very strange time–but I’ve been trying to find a silver lining.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert and tell you why you should care about this virus. (I’ll leave that to the experts at the CDC. #flattenthecurve) This is a serious issue, I want you to stay healthy and do what the experts are advising at the moment. Mainly, don’t leave your house.
I know for a lot of us, this will be a very hard time. People are out of work, losing income, fearing for the health of friends and family, worrying about food shortages, scrambling to find child care, and wondering who is actually telling the truth about the situation.
This is intense and I can’t wait until it’s over, but creative people may as well take advantage of the positive side effects of this pandemic. I promise, they exist. While the Coronavirus and its consequences are terrible, we can try to make the best out of this situation in any way we can. As artists and creative people, that means we make things.
When life hands you chaos, make it into art.
When your feelings are too intense and you want to scream, make art.
Just stay home and make art.
Here’s why this is the perfect time to do it:
1. Use uncomfortable emotions to inspire creativity.
Everything we feel can be used as creative fuel. The more intense your emotions, the more fuel you have to make something.
People are experiencing a wide range of emotions as they confront how this virus is impacting life as we know it. Fear, anxiety, discomfort, uncertainty, confusion, anger, sadness, and so on. When these feelings aren’t channeled in constructive ways, it causes people to do things like panic-buy a pallet of canned black beans and 50 pound sacks of rice. And then people who weren’t initially panicking start to panic-buy the resources that are left out of a fear of scarcity. It just snowballs. We don’t need doomsday level prepping here!
Prepare responsibly, and then take a deep breath, and pick up a paint brush.
Emotional discomfort is the precursor to creativity. Just like panic-buying food, creating art can restore a sense of control and order to person’s life. Also, it’s less negatively disruptive to the lives of others.
Use your emotions and channel them into creativity of any kind during this troubling time. Write poetry, fiction, or blog posts to help others. Create visual works of art. Write satire to lift your mood. Even creating memes counts! A lot of great art has been created out of turmoil. Art is both medicine and self-expression when life gets complicated.
Take that uncomfortable energy inside of you and use it constructively. You’ll dampen the anxiety inside of you in the process as well as create something that may comfort others.
2.Use boredom and isolation to strengthen creative discipline.
I’ve written about this before, but I’ll talk about it again. When we allow ourselves to be distracted all the time, our brain never gets a chance to show us its full creative potential. Going out with friends, attending concerts and sporting events, running errands, shopping, and going out for coffee are easy ways to keep the brain busy. Since many gatherings have been cancelled, and a lot of us are listening to the experts and staying home, this gives us time to be bored and alone. (Obviously we still have the internet, but I’ll talk about that next.)
Consider social distancing and quarantine like an artist’s retreat!
Boredom and isolation are unpleasant, but I want to encourage you to embrace them for the sake of your art. Let your brain be silent. Sit at home and be alone without distractions. I know it sucks and I know you’d rather be doing something else (like making money or binge watching Netflix), but if you’ve ever tried to force your brain to be quiet, you know it makes all kinds of noise to fill the silence. This is where wonderful creative things can happen, but you have to embrace that boredom to get there.
Even if you just sit silently with a sketch book for 10 minutes, you can make creative progress. The discomfort only lasts a little while. Once your creativity starts flowing, the boredom fades away.
3.Occasionally unplug from the world.
It’s good to stay informed and be aware of what is happening in the world, but we really should limit how much of our attention is focused outward when chaos take over. In order to maximize the positive effects of boredom and isolation, you can’t scroll through social media and news articles every five minutes. Choose a time during the day to check in with reliable news sources and touch base with family and friends, but put your phone down after that.
Creating is hard work and distractions are an easy out. Plus, those distractions are probably pretty stressful at the moment. Personally, instead of tuning into the news and crazy stuff out there all the time, I try to focus on the external things that are within my control to keep myself from spiraling down into an anxiety cavern. I tune in, then I turn it off and make a plan for myself.
I can make art. I can write. I can share this with you guys. I can stay home to keep myself healthy, and protect others who are more vulnerable in the process.
Focus on what you can control in positive ways!
I hope that you are staying safe and are taking this issue seriously, but I also hope that you are giving yourself space to breathe and relax. We are all in this together. Wash your hands, listen to the CDC and medical professionals, help your fellow humans when you can, and be nice to those who are working hard to restock grocery stores!
Now, go get messy!
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