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Are Creative Pursuits “Frivolous” During a Pandemic?

“You don’t have time for that.”

“There are so many more important things you should to be doing.”

“Why waste your limited time on something so silly?”

No, thankfully people aren’t actually telling me these things (at least not to my face!). These are quotes from my own inner voice. You know the one—he or she visits every time you set out to do something just for you. Do you listen?

In the midst of a global health crisis, this voice becomes even more powerful and insistent. “This is a PANDEMIC. Stop writing your silly children’s stories or drawing your silly pictures and do something that MATTERS.” This is a very convincing argument, and it is not surprising that so many are struggling to create during this time. But what actually “matters”?

As many of us enter month 3 of some form of physical isolation and generalized stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is becoming increasingly clear how essential it is to tend to our mental health. Our bodies (and our relationships!) are not designed to withstand 3 months of elevated cortisol levels and lost sleep. Despite being a stress researcher, I am just as prone to the effects of stress as anyone else (SURPRISE!). When I feel my stomach tightening, my focus waning, and my temper shortening, I know it’s time to take some “me” time. And for me and many creatives, “me” time involves some form of creativity.

Ever since this whole thing started, I’ve felt drawn [pun intended!] to a more physical form of creativity than even writing allows. Now, I’m no artist, being more of a doodler than a creator of masterpieces, but there’s just something about putting pen/pencil/paintbrush to paper that makes the world feel just a little bit more stable.

Writing has also served this “me time,” stress-reduction purpose, albeit differently. Although I haven’t done much “serious” PB writing lately, since my time is so scattered among childcare, homeschooling, and work demands, I’ve been having great fun participating in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Mix n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge. Basically, she posts a prompt each week and the challenge is to create a ~100 word story based on that prompt. These little exercises, as evidenced by the story to the right, inspired by the image of a puppy and a fulffy chick, have helped me connect with a truth my 5-year-old teaches me daily: sometimes silliness really is the best medicine!

So, taking some time to be creative, combined with fresh air and a bit of prayer, helps lower my cortisol and color my perspective a little bit rosier. This time helps me be more patient with my children, more considerate of my spouse, and generally more productive. Observed objectively, do I have time for “frivolous” writing and drawing? NO.

But the saying is borne out by research: you can’t fill others’ cups if yours is empty. For all of us creatives caring for others, shouldering additional responsibilities, and carrying a COVID-19-sized mental load, let’s not forget to fill our cups.

“Frivolous”? Try ESSENTIAL.

What are YOU doing to fill your cup today? Share in the comments!

*I told you I wasn't an artist! HA.


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