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More Time for Creativity (or Not)

Taking my time to come to terms with a new way of life during the pressures of a global pandemic.

Noticing the skies more from the front of my house, 2020. credit: L Kernaghan

I am supposed to be creative. I thought I was resilient. I thought I could adapt well and quickly. I thought I liked to help people and provide meaningful work. Why can't I create something that will genuinely help people in some way, like so many others have? I have admired all the creative ways people across the country and world have come together to provide new initiatives in order to look out for one another within their communities, but why haven't I been able to get involved? I find it so hard just looking after my own mind right now, it seems impossible to help others in a meaningful way. It has taken all my emotional effort to get up and dressed in the morning. I am getting there, but so much slower than others apparently. I feel selfish I am not helping others. But I am not selfish, and I want to help.


Perhaps it is because I don't perform well under immense pressure. Perhaps it's something I would get used to, but right now I have found this whole Covid-19 thing so overwhelming it has crippled my ability to do anything useful. I think I had just about found a delicate balance of productivity vs. pressure with studying for a Masters full time, from home (which more people are realising now is actually quite hard), but now throw into the mix a global pandemic, I have found myself more lost than I have ever felt. All the projects I had in mind to develop related to getting out into the hills and bringing people together, now seem so unachievable in the timescales I have available. Everything I believe in like exploring wild places and deepening real-life (non-virtual) human and natural connections cannot be achieved in the same ways I am used to during a lock-down with social distancing measures in place. That's not to say we can't think creatively about how we might still achieve these things, but I am not there yet.

I have also felt so terrible for feeling so down about it too, when I know I am far more privileged than many others. I have told myself over and over I don't deserve to panic and feel sad about this, but I know the reality is we are all facing a huge amount of uncertainty not felt in many of our lives before. My worries aren't just for myself, but for everyone else who might suffer as a result of this and that is worth being upset about.

Slowly, I have allowed myself permission to be upset, frustrated, anxious. And slowly, slowly a small list of positives that come from being in national lock-down is beginning to emerge. Of course my list of worries and stresses are huge and constantly looming, but the little glimmers of positivity are starting to eventually creep in, which help at least break up that constant feeling of stress. I don't imagine the anxious dread will go completely and in some ways, I don't want to ever forget the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in. It is a hugely profound moment in our lives and I think we should feel like we can acknowledge that for all the good and bad it brings. But if that small list of positive outcomes can keep growing a little- organically and without forcing it to- perhaps I will soon be back in a more balanced position, ready to be productive again and with it, bring a fresh and more informed perspective- one that allows myself more time in future.


Comfort zone model. credit: Nadler (1995) [3]

Developing new habits can also help to develop new and useful perspectives. Doing the small things and building a new simple routine has helped my thoughts of distress over not knowing what I can do, turn to what I know I can do, but only after wallowing in self pity for a while. I have read about how this feeling of loss is akin to grief and with that in mind, I know that grief is a process and takes time to move from one stage to another[1].

In the post previous, I (ironically?!) mention how discomfort can actually help with creativity [2], although I realise now more than ever if we are too far out of our comfort zones, we might find ourselves in a state which is nearly impossible to be creative or productive [3].

It takes time for us to feel normal in this new situation we find ourselves in, and when we slowly begin to feel a little more normal, and little less uncomfortable, maybe then we can think of creative solutions to these vast problems we have been confronted with.


I have been watching the birds and the clouds and the loch and the local cats and my neighbours working in their gardens each day and I am glad to not feel like I should be constantly on the go but I can simply look and notice. I am glad to have learned through this that I am resilient and that being resilient doesn't mean reacting quickly. People are resilient. I have the ability to simultaneously feel extreme gratitude and extreme sadness and if that makes me stop and wait a while so I can metaphorically ride the emotional wave, I think that is OK.

List of References


1. Berinato, S. (2020) That Discomfort You're Feeling is Grief [online]. Available from:<https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief?fbclid=IwAR3kUzhac2ZcGICGPxLqS5sP35t4IV3FfJKdOCYmxZnJRBvhtwRRZMEl_AM>

2. Mueller, J.S., Melwani, S. & Goncalo, J.A. (2012) 'The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire but Reject Creative Ideas'. Psychol Sci 23 (1), 13-17.

3. Nadler, R.S. (1995) 'Edgework: Stretching boundaries and generalizing experiences'. The Journal of Experiential Education 18(1), 52-55.

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