Creation in Times of Strife


Wooden gate with a heart made of glass in the center.

And then…

The slow return to the sense of feet on ground.

The slow return to the sound of birdsong, or cars, or laughter.

The slow remembering of all the things that give life meaning:

A song. A story. A picture painted on brick. A tree. The ghost of a memory.

The promise that tomorrow the planet’s revolution will show us sun again, or clouds and rain, and maybe, if we’re lucky, stars.

Creativity is as natural as breathing. And yet, in these times, breath itself gasps and stutters in failing lungs. So how do we create? How do we breathe? How do we begin again?

***

My average writing speed a year or so ago—barring the worst days when my chronic illness kicked my ass—was 1200 words per hour. That meant a steady 2000 words per day—eight pages of text—was doable and 5k a day was not too huge a push. Writing, alongside all my other work, was as much a heartbeat of my life as walking or morning meditation.

From October 1 to March 1, 2020, I wrote every single day, no matter what else was going on. Travel. Illness. Gatherings. I wrote.

Then the pandemic hit. Then the uprising. The ambient stress and noise in the air increased until everyone shopped for groceries, or went to work, or sheltered in place with the low drone of a collective scream sounding in the base of the skull.

And the screaming did not go away.

And we had to find ways to take care of ourselves and each other under more duress than we had been before. Parents had to take care of children or elders. Disabled people scrambled to maintain their health and safety in the midst of a massive, outside threat to body and mind. People were out of work. People had to work under terrifying conditions. No money came. Food prices climbed. Evictions began.

And in the streets, people marched, masks on, shouting for change.

***

If typing, my average word count per hour now is 500. Less than half. With dictation, these days I can get more words, plus a walk, too.

Despite living with more security than many, my income dropped. Adjustments were made. Despite morning prayer and meditation, my attention was shattered by concern for everyone around me. My need to re-center increased three-fold.

I stopped writing every day. I read voraciously, instead, and took comfort in watching movies on a small computer screen. I helped make lunch for those living on the streets, brought supplies to protestors, and like so many of us, gave away more money than I really had to give.

I took walks, to remember beauty. It is still everywhere. And, over time, slowly, I started back to writing daily once again, diminished word count and all.

Why? Because even in the worst of times, creativity finds a way.

Why? Because beauty is important. Temporary bouts of escape or joy feed heart and soul.

Why? Because without creation, life itself eventually ceases to exist.

***

We must pledge to life, over and over again.

We must pledge to care for one another, over and over again.

We must take up the trowel, or knead the dough, or paint, or sing, or weave, or write, or dance.

This world will not go down in ashes without our voices singing her praise.

This world will not renew itself, without our efforts to belong. And by belonging, I mean: to follow the longing we have to be. To follow the longing we have to join. To follow the longing we have to love. To follow the longing of creation itself.

To grow something anew.

***

One of my writing mentors says, any time we get stuck, to simply, “write the next sentence.”

So, I ask you today:

What is your next sentence?

What does that mean for you?

What is your next effort?

What brings you home again?

What reminds you to breathe?

 

This essay was funded by my Patreon supporters. May one thousand blessings rain upon their heads! I’ll soon be moving my Patreon content to Substack, and posting things there weekly, along with hosting discussions on various topics in a place more conducive to thoughtful conversation than Facebook or Twitter. Interested? Find out more here.

#creativity

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