Art Life

Writing Retreat, Day 1

Turns out, a creator who is not creating turns into a beastly nightmare of her former self. What’s more, the creating creator is a much more pleasant beast to be around.

This is likely not news to you, as it is not to me. Yet I seem to relearn it every once in a while.

In the midst of pandemic and everyone coming home and figuring out who does what on which device and how to ethically and sustainably feed ourselves and search for new jobs…in the midst of it all, I let creation fall down. I didn’t feel creative. I didn’t feel like I had the dedicated time to give the creative process. Hearing “mom” 42 times an hour can be a little draining, even when it is a privilege. Just as it’s a privilege to live in a house with what we need and without Covid-19, the sheer size of the pandemic and its ever-flowing impacts can feel suffocating.

My family has a habit a few times a year of indulging a writing retreat for me in the middle of the sometimes-chaos that is our home. I received the blessing for one this Thursday and Friday. I began at 8 am and ended at 9 pm. In between, I mostly wore my noise-canceling headphones. My husband explained that the noise canceling works only when listening to music. I explained that I don’t need music to cancel the noise. I need a signpost. A thing that says, wait, don’t interrupt.

This morning I awoke sunnier than I have felt in weeks. A weight is lifting as I see that I am still making progress, writing is still a thing I love, and edits are not as scary as they advertise themselves to be. I also see that a writing retreat is awesome, but that I can create daily by doing. It may not be the most amazing, the least disjointed, or the cleanest draft, but I can create the way creators always have: by showing up.

So before I launch into day 2, I just wanted to say: create. I firmly believe every person is a creator of something. Try not to create life drama, maybe. But create something today. A jam. A poem. A sketch. A book. An idea. A cake. I don’t know. You do you! See if creating something, anything can make the terribleness of this pandemic a little more bearable.


Sea Change

In this tumultuous sea we all share, the coming changes will be exacting and excruciating. As the wave crests and threatens to throw us overboard, we may despair. Together. As the wave’s trough eventually comes, we will, on mutual exhaustion, find reprieve. Together.

Except. Except the ones lost along the wave. Of which there are already too many. We have so very much to do.

Meanwhile, my husband’s job layoff meant I job searched. And I found something that also found me. I begin April 20. To say I’m awash in emotion is understated. Grateful. Hopeful. Anxious. Resigned and resolved. That names a fair few emotions that stew and bubble amidst this pandemic and economic crisis.

Working at a job, as opposed to writing and making art, represents a sea change in our household. I seek accommodation for my constraints. That feels absolutely key. School is out and husband is home and every adaptation I’ve built feels poised on a fault line.

In times of tremendous change, I seek something real and solid to hold. Here, that’s preparation. Renewing our disaster plan to consider pandemics. Executing our will – we had a will-signing party on the front lawn, complete with six-foot distancing, hand sanitizer, and cleaned pens before and after. Shoring up legal documents and organizing them.

It is an illusion. I am prepared not at all. Not for death of loved ones. Not for suffering. Certainly not for a pandemic stretching out indefinitely.

I must exit preparation and enter some new phase. Maybe creation. Maybe making can be the solid thing on which I stand. On Sunday, the preacher said that limitations breed creativity. If that’s true, we’ve all got creativity to spare. Imagine what we could do. Not as illusion but concrete, tangible even in intangible ways.

Between crest and trough, create. Hold onto the real. Stay well to the very extent you can. From excruciation through exhaustion and upon the following wave, be and do and make.

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