Friday, May 8, 2020

3 Aids for Creativity in the Time of the Coronavirus

Today, I'm wrapping up our series on "Creativity in the Time of the Coronavirus." As April mentioned in her post, the topic is a take-off on the title, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, which neither she nor I have read. We just like the title.

April also shared that the inspiration for this series came from a Tweet thread posted by Cynthia Leitich Smith back in March. (The link April shared didn't work for some reason, but I think this one does.) Cynthia also posted the following graphic on her Facebook author page summarizing the Tweet thread. (If you can't read the following, April typed up the Tweets in her post.)

I love how Cynthia's post acknowledges that individual writers and illustrators (and really, creatives of any kind) can respond so differently to the same situation. One thing I've learned in my many years of teaching and writing is that no one way is right for everyone. While some writers work best by having a regular, daily writing time, others feel that creates too much pressure. Some writers thrive when they set word-count goals while others despise them. Similarly, we each have our own way of dealing with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

One of my goals for this group blog has been for the six TeachingAuthors to share our own unique approaches to being teachers and writers, even if those approaches are wildly different. For this series, Bobbi kicked us off by discussing examples of writers, illustrators, and storytellers who have been sharing their art and become "candles of light amid the dark night." In her post, Mary Ann confessed to being stalled in her writing and shared some of the books and articles helping her to be okay with that. April admitted that she finds the shower of online resources tiring. Her coping mechanism is to continue her habit of writing one poem a day, and she shared a powerful poem in her post (along with a video of a newborn pond turtle 😍). Esther's indomitable spirit shines through in her post on how "Unexpected Kodak Moments" (and her favorite ice cream) are helping her get through this crisis. Gwendolyn extolled the soothing quality of jazz and shared that "Just giving myself permission to write without worrying about the result makes me feel extra creative."

My fellow TeachingAuthors have already provided so many marvelous tips and resources. And yet, I still have something to add--I'd like to share the three things that are most helping my creativity during this time.

1) Nature
     As I mentioned in my last TeachingAuthors' post, walking outside gives me a mental health boost, especially now. I've been taking regular walks around the neighborhood (practicing social distancing when I encounter anyone). I find paying attention to all the changing signs of spring--sights, sounds, and smells--very uplifting.

I encountered this just-starting-to-bloom lilac on a recent walk
      On days when the weather keeps me indoors, I sometimes go online for my nature fix, checking out the latest videos or photos on the Morton Arboretum Instagram account or the Illinois Birding Network Facebook group. (I never knew Illinois had so many bird varieties!)

2) My critique group deadlines
     The critique group I'd participated in for many, many years disbanded some time ago after several members moved out of state and others simply stopped writing. I missed the group, but not the problem of having to fit those meetings into an already meeting-filled schedule. But in January of this year, I was fortunate to connect with a group that critiques each other virtually, via email, twice a month. Having that regular deadline has really helped me stay on task, especially since the shelter-at-home order. I know deadlines don't help everyone, but they're terrific motivators for people like me who are what Gretchen Rubin calls "Obligers." In her bestselling book, The Four Tendencies (Harmony), Rubin describes how Obligers need outer accountability to meet their own expectations. (If you're interested, check out her website for more info and take a quiz to find out your own tendency.) During this crisis, I've felt too distracted to do much reading, even for pleasure. But thanks to my regular critique group deadlines, I've been making slow and steady progress on my work-in-process. 
3) Jigsaw puzzles 
     Even before the pandemic started, I'd been thinking about pulling out some old jigsaw puzzles stored in our basement. Inspired by social media posts of others doing jigsaw puzzles, I finally did so. When the news gets overwhelming, working on the puzzle really calms me.

I hope this TeachingAuthors' series has brought comfort and inspiration to you, our readers. I'd like to end with Cynthia Leitich Smith's words:
You take care. Wash your hands. Do what you need
to do. Really, it’s okay.
Posted by Carmela


Carol Coven Grannick said...

Carmela, I took such pleasure in your summary of all the wonderful columns I've read lately, and your three tips, two of which are mine, as well. I haven't yet gottten into jigsaw puzzles, but oddly, have been thinking about it this week. Poetry has been my main focus, and most days, I write at least one poem, so that keeps me grounded. Submitting work as usual also helps me! Stay safe and well!

Leanne Pankuch said...

Thanks for this post, Carmela! It affirms some of the writerly self-care habits I've tried to adopt during this strange time. It's a great comfort to hear that others are struggling, but also coping and continuing to create. #SpreadHope !

Carmela Martino said...

Hi Carol,
Glad you're poetry is giving you focus.
Leanne, love your #SpreadHope :-)
Thanks for the feedback, Ladies!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks for those terrific summaries, Marti - and - the reminder to treat myself to a jigsaw puzzle!
Maybe I can find one of Wrigley Field? :)

April Halprin Wayland said...

Carmela ~ what a useful and comforting post. Thank you.