I was in Washington, D.C. all last week, Ground Zero of the craziness that’s happening in the U.S. right now.
I blog and podcast about creativity and joy, not about politics, but the frightening truth is that for me, and for many people I’ve talked to, what’s happening in the U.S. government is deeply impacting both our creativity and our joy.
First off, we’re being traumatized.
Even if you are a rich, white, evangelical Christian, able-bodied, cisgendered male who has never experienced anything but perfect health — in other words, if you don’t personally belong to a group that will suffer from or be targeted by the cruelties and greed of the new administration — you have eyes.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you can see the suffering that’s already happening. And if you have an ounce of empathy — if you aren’t a sociopathic narcissist — the suffering that other people experience is traumatizing.
People are terrified. I sure am. It feels like we’re all walking around with our stomachs clenched, wondering what’s going to happen next.
This is not normal.
Yet this has become the new normal.
Which is not healthy, of course. It’s traumatic.
It’s like when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit when I was living in Berkeley in 1989.
Now, I grew up in California. I was used to earthquakes. Until Loma Prieta, they were kind of fun, in a horror film, roller coaster kind of way. If it happened at school, everyone would shriek, and we’d tumble under our desks, then head outside, all abuzz.
We were hip, because we’d been through an earthquake.
But once you’ve experienced a Big Earthquake, earthquakes aren’t so fun anymore. When you’ve felt the ground beneath your feet turn to liquid, nothing feels trustworthy anymore. The phrase “safe as houses” no longer applies. The phrase “solid ground” is rendered meaningless.
This is where we’re at right now. Many things I thought to be rock solid about the U.S. have proven to be as stable as landfill in an earthquake, and if you’re like me, it may have sent you into a tailspin.
No wonder your creative output is affective. No wonder you’re feeling just a mite stressed out.
So that’s the first way what’s happening in the world is affecting creativity and joy.
Two: Time Sink
The second way what’s happening in the world is deeply impacting both our creativity and our joy is that if, like me, you are refusing to sit idly by, you are now taking action. Perhaps, like me, you are taking a lot of action.
I realized some weeks ago that taking action was essential to keeping my sanity. Doing nothing — just going on with my regular life as if nothing had changed — was literally making me feel worse and less sane, whereas every tiny little thing I did to actively resist helped me feel surprisingly better.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as it is in alignment with Guidepost #4 of my Creative Sandbox Way, “Think tiny and daily.”
(I created the Creative Sandbox Way Guideposts to spark creative action, but it turns out they are remarkably helpful in sparking all kinds of actions, including acts of resistance to fascism. Who knew?)
I remembered that the Holocaust happened not solely because of the Nazis, but equally as much because of the silent complicity of regular German citizens.
I refuse to be silently complicit. Instead I am actively resisting every single day. I am a Jedi Pussy, determined to do all I can to defeat the Dark Side.
I honestly never in my wildest dreams imagined it would come to this in my lifetime. I spent the past few months in denial, hoping it wouldn’t happen, but here we are.
So here we are, traumatized, and working our Jedi Pussy buns off, taking action (or getting sucked into Facebook — guilty as charged!) during times when we might otherwise be creating.
There’s no time to create, and we don’t feel like creating anyway, because BLEAH!
[Cue sound of screeching brakes.]
Time for an Intervention and Paradigm Shift!
Here’s the thing: WE NEED ART MORE THAN EVER RIGHT NOW!
Your art is what is going to pull you through this mess.
Your art is your oxygen tank. It’s your beating heart.
Your art is what is going to help you survive, SO DO NOT BAIL ON IT!
Two Tips to Keep Making Your Art in Times of Great Stress
Tip One: Put Your Art First
One of the most important things I’ve figured out is this: The thing you do FIRST is the thing that gets DONE.
So don’t put your art off until after you’ve done everything else.
It can be tempting to use your art as a “reward” at the end, but this can be a dangerous strategy at times of stress, because you may never get to the end.
And you NEED that reward.
Tip Two: Eliminate the Hoops
The other important thing I’ve figured out is that people are basically lazy (or maybe it’s just me).
For example, back when I used to play guitar, I kept my guitar in a hard case in the closet, behind a bunch of coats. So every time I wanted to play, I had to open the closet, fight the coats to pull out the case, put the case on the bed, open it up, pull out the guitar, then tune the guitar and start playing.
Then I had to go through the reverse to put the guitar away.
It didn’t take me long to discover that this was going to be a problem. There were simply too many hoops to jump through:
Open the close door (hoop); fight the coats (hoop); pull out the case (hoop); put the case on the bed (hoop); open the case (hoop); pull out the guitar (hoop); tune the guitar (hoop) – that’s seven hoops! Even just to strum one chord!
Guess who didn’t play her guitar very often.
The sad truth is that the more hoops humans have to jump through, the less likely we are to do something. Eliminate the hoops, though, and our chances of taking action start to increase dramatically.
I figured out that if I put a guitar hook on the wall, I could bring those seven hoops down to just one, which meant I actually played my guitar.
Back at the beginning of 2016 I realized weeks had gone by and I hadn’t made any art. My computer is right behind my art table, and by the time I walked into the studio each day, the gravitational pull of the computer was just so strong, I never made it to my art table — big problem!
What to do?
Well, I knew that the thing I do FIRST is the thing that gets DONE, so I thought to myself, what can I do FIRST THING in the morning, right in my bedroom, before I even enter the gravitational field of my computer?
“I can’t paint with acrylic paints in bed,” I thought, “but I can draw with black markers and a sketchbook.”
So that is how my morning doodle practice started: I eliminated the hoops. I now keep sketchbooks, Pigma Micron markers, and Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils right next to my bed, so I can doodle sitting up in bed, first thing in the morning. (All of those are Amazon affiliate links, btw.)
I don’t even have to walk across the hall to my studio!
Guess who is way more likely to make art every day now?
These are just a couple of examples. I could give you a ton more.
One of my favorites is of someone who wanted to start a morning running habit, but the hassle of putting on her running clothes was just too big a hoop, so months went by, and she never did it.
Then finally she got the idea to sleep in her running clothes, and put her running shoes right next to her bed.
So now every morning she wakes up already dressed to go running, and all she has to do is slip her feet into her running shoes and run out the door.
Someone in the Facebook group for my Creative Sandbox Way readers shared that she created a special box of art supplies that is ready at a moment’s notice, and easy to keep out of reach of her two-year-old. She doesn’t have space in her house for a dedicated art table, and with a two-year-old that would be hard to carry off anyway, but her Creative Sandbox supply box works really well for her.
That box is how she eliminated the hoops so she doesn’t have to spend her time hunting for things, but can just grab her box and GO.
So what can YOU do to eliminate the hoops and be ready at a moment’s notice to get creating?
In this time of emotional earthquakes and time sinks, you need your art more than ever.
Remember, as I’ve shared elsewhere, when you make time for your art, it literally restores energy to your brain’s prefrontal cortex. It gives you more patience and willpower. It refreshes and recharges you.
Making your art helps give you the will to go on when times are rough. Now is not the time to deny yourself your art; now is the time to give yourself MORE Creative Sandbox time, not less!
Do that by putting your art FIRST, and eliminating the hoops. Even if you give yourself just fifteen minutes a day of Creative Sandbox playtime, that healing creative time will make a world of difference.
Let me know how it goes!
Thanks for Listening!
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