by Ali Shaw, Executive Editor
Dear friends, clients, and colleagues,
I hope this message finds you safe and healthy. This is a tough time for everyone, and if you’re like me, it’s too easy to let the negativity and the fear take over. I hope you’re able to see the many positive things that are still happening in our communities and around the world, but if you need a little help finding them, here’s my roundup of amazing things that I’ve been seeing in the world of creativity.
First, though, I’d like to offer a moment of silence to all those who have passed, all those who are ill, all those who are worried, all those who are suffering in any way.
I’ve got a piece of cheap artwork hanging on my bedroom wall. It’s made of particle board with printed plastic glued over the top. The object itself is not priceless by any means, but the message is why I bought it.
You see those first two lines? “Create something every day.”
Creativity helps us cope. Creating something grounds us in the moment. It pushes the headlines away. It aligns our senses to guide our eyes, our ears, our fingers—and in doing so, it calms our frazzled nerves.
In times like these, we must keep creating. No pressure, nothing high stakes (unless that helps you feel better), but something!
My spirits have been bolstered by the abundance of writing and creativity supports that have emerged these past few weeks. Here are just a few:
When it comes to writing, the main creative inspirations I’ve seen crop up since the quarantines began are:
- Writing Together: Poet Kate Gray has been hosting a daily writing time she calls Writing Together. People from all over the world can call in to 503-300-2534 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific time every day. Kate describes how each session goes with:
“I’ll offer a meditation or something to ground you, then offer prompts. You’ll write for 20-30 minutes, and you can choose to stay or come back. When you come back, I’ll read a poem…, something soothing and inspiring. And if there’s time we can check in with each other. Simple. Every day.”
- Prompts: If writing together on the phone is not your thing, the Attic Institute based in Portland has email writing prompts for you to do solo, at your convenience. Sign up for their newsletter, and they’ll send you five writing prompts every week. Here’s one from last week:
Write a letter from your current self in your current situation to your future self – five, ten, or twenty years from now.
They add: “Like what you come up with? Please send it to us. We hope to post some of your ‘Writing in a Time of Corona’ pieces on the website.”
- Collaborations: Montclair University’s Creative Research Center has “convened a series of brief essays during the past few months on the theme of Collaborations. We offer them below, in a spirit of ‘remote togetherness’ during this difficult time.” Curator Charlotte Kent says, “A creative life is often conceived as the lone artist, striving for perfection, away from society; but, in fact, many artists collaborate with others across the arts.” Check out the collection for essays, stories, and other artistic musings related to collaboration. Then maybe write one of your own.
For me, right now, sometimes writing requires more mental clarity than I have to give it. Sometimes doing some cross-training in other artistic mediums is helpful.
- Quarantine Art Club: Illustrator Carson Ellis has been hosting the Quarantine Art Club on her Instagram. Every day, she posts an art assignment accompanied by a short art lesson and kind encouragement. People have been sharing their artwork, and she reposts it too.
Maybe you’re more about music than visual art. There are activities for that too!
- Guitar: The Fender Play app is making their instructor-guided guitar, bass, and ukulele lessons free for 90 days.
- Synthesizing: The Minimoog Model D synthesizer app is now free and offers hours of fun in synthing sounds.
Experts suggest not just flexing your creativity but also moving your body. Movement helps release endorphins to support your mental health, and it also prevents stiffness and chronic pain that can arise when we spend too much time sedentary indoors.
- Yoga with Adriene: Yoga helps not just with moving your body but also with centering your mind and emotions. Yoga with Adriene is a free YouTube channel that offers sessions that yogis of any level can do at home. Plus, she’s got a cute dog who sometimes makes appearances in the videos.
My cheesy bedroom art piece has other great advice too. I’m letting life be imperfect by identifying what I can control versus what I cannot, which helps immensely with mental health. I’m trying to be kind in small ways and big, by reaching out to loved ones and by spending money at small businesses (especially independent bookstores). I’m using my imagination as I throw together food with substitute ingredients. I’m grateful for every moment, flower, and smile, and I’m especially grateful to start seeing some of the world’s cities’ coronavirus case curves start to flatten.
And I’m dreaming big for a day when the fear and uncertainty have passed, hopeful for much higher survival rates than were expected. I’m looking forward to book launch parties and concerts and sports games and hiking excursions. We’ll get there again eventually, probably with more gratitude than ever before.
What about you? What creative outlets are you exploring? What resources are guiding you? What examples of human creativity and kindness are bolstering you? Please share on our Facebook page or in the comments below!
Till next time, please stay home, stay healthy, stay safe.
Ali Shaw taught herself basic guitar when she lived on a small island in Alaska, learned to love gentle living room yoga when she was bedridden with a back injury, and is now taking joy in Zoom-based writing groups and homemade cinnamon rolls.