This topic was presented to me the other day. If I’m honest, this topic has been tossed my way on more than one occasion since March of 2020. How do you create when the world feels as if it’s crumbling around you? So, I thought I’d write about it.
The real question is: How do you do anything outside of running the motions of day to day survival?
If you do a google search, myriad posts with resources, tips, and tricks to get you back at it, bullet points on what to write about, and on and on will pop up. But do they actually provide answers? I guess. They say something — I didn’t find any of them helpful. Mostly I found them to create more anxiety.
So I ignored them.
For me, these last eight months have been an emotional roller coaster in every aspect of my life. Like so many others, I lost my job. For the first time in all of my years of working, I applied for unemployment. My son no longer goes to school. His last year of fifth grade was meant to end in fanfare with a send-off celebration and a special yearbook (that he never received); instead, it ended in tears. My husband has been working from home. Gone are the days of teaching yoga. Gone are the days of writing at 5am Writers Clubs — because I can’t get out of bed. Gone are my morning/afternoons of writing, plotting, editing, researching — basically being a writer.
The life I had was lost.
Then all the internal changes began. Did I even want the life I had? Did that life make me happy? Was I running through the motions back then, or am I now — or am I running through the motions of my life in general?
It was a real-time Waking Life — Existential — I got drunk/high for the first time and saw god in the broken tail light of my best friends Buick — crisis; but now, I was having it as an adult, sober, while doing a YouTube HIIT class in the small space between the end of my bed and the wall.
Do I really miss the students who go above and beyond to correct me while I’m teaching? Nope. Do I miss being in traffic? Nope. Do I miss carving up my writing time to construct classes? Nope. Do I miss my seniors? Yes. Because they’re fun. 80-year-olds are fun. If you disagree, you need to talk to more 80-year-olds.
My exercise routine went from 2-3 times a week to 2-3 times a day. My best days are a solid 1.5-2 hours stretches. This is when I have my most significant “moments.” This is when I can think without interruptions.
This was when I had my “how to create art during a pandemic” moment. It went a little like this:
I’ve been writing for my whole life — but I have always found a reason not to write. Pre-child, it was because I was socializing too much. Post child it was because of the child — and I still was socializing too much. Then we moved to Los Angeles, and my first round of isolation began. 2011.
This was my first time genuinely dealing with isolation — the only human contact I had for more than a couple hours at the beginning and end of the day was my 3-year-old. This isolation lasted nearly three years until he started Kindergarten. Then, his isolation ended. Mine lingered.
Because after three years of living inside your own head — it’s really, really hard to get out. (I learned to hate myself on levels I didn’t know existed. I was never good enough. I was never smart enough. I was never skinny enough. Fun enough. Witty enough. Never watched the right shows/tv. Never read the right books/poems/essays. Never.)
Most of 2018 & 2019 were spent fixing all of those Nevers. Then Covid hit — but Now I knew better.
Those three+ years are what I reference as an emotional gauge during this time of Covid. I watched myself shrivel into prune of my old self the last time around — as I lost total confidence in who I was and what I wanted — I kept a journal (mental and physical) documenting this dive into the underworld of my brain. Now, I refer back to those moments so I don’t do that again. Now, I know there is another end of the tunnel — because I walked through it before.
These bits of knowledge have kept me from totally drowning this time around. Also, one thing that is majorly different during this period of isolation is, I know I’m not alone in it. It’s more challenging to accept isolation when others are so free and moving around. During Covid I know in my cells we’re all in this shit-show together.
I am not alone.
You are not alone.
But how does any of that help you create? It doesn’t.
Are there ways to help you create? I’ve found two:
1 – You must grieve. All of the steps. You need to cry. You need to get angry. You need to accept you can’t change things. You have to let go. You have to move on. Until you can move on – you need to repeat the steps. You need to GRIEVE. Completely. Totally. 100%. Cry. Cry until you can’t any more. Then cry again.
2 – You need to accept that without control — all you can do is be. Be in this moment. Think about the things you would normally not think about. How things piss you off. What things trigger you. When do you do your best creating?
There is no contest or competition. The only person you’re competing against is yourself. And, this is a big one, if you still can’t create — it doesn’t matter. You’re still an artist. You’re still a creator. You’re still you. We all have our own process at writing, creating, living, being — honor it. Embrace it.
So, back to the top: How do you do anything outside of running the motions of day to day survival? You breathe. You live in this moment, not one from last year, not one that might be in your future–you embrace the heck of RIGHT NOW. And if you end up writing — good job you!! And if you don’t — good job you! Because you’ve made it this far. You’ll make it farther. I promise. You’re not alone.