Creativity in the Age of the Pandemic

Well, Hello!  I’ve been gone for quite a while.

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The truth is, I was lost before the pandemic.  And, rather than admit and address it, I turned inward as the world became engorged in anxiety, in doubt, in depression.  We all had our own ways of reacting and responding to the pandemic.  I will admit that I could not write.  But I wanted to.

As a Floridian, I saw COVID-19 as just another named hurricane.  It was announced as hurricanes are.  We prepped as we do for hurricanes. We rushed to stores and bought supplies.  Then, as it barreled through the country, we sat at home and watched.  We watched the destruction to our life, to our families, to our plans, to our autonomy.  We watched and waited for it to come to our door.  But, for those of us who prepare for these unexpected expected natural disasters, we plan what we will do when it strikes.

When the power is out, we know the meats will grill outdoors. We plan to whose house we will travel if things are unbearable at home.  We plan to play more board games with the kids.  We think of the fence that we have put off replacing, but, after the hurricane, we decide that will be the time to handle it.  Well, I immediately planned to write.  I cleaned my office.  I collected notebooks. I bought pens.

But no words came.  When people asked, I blamed it on writer’s block.  That was neither true nor was it fair.

What is closer to the truth, I was depressed.  I’ve used ‘was’, not to say that it has passed, but to communicate that it is not some unknown intruder.  I know what plagues me and I think, like me, most of you are depressed.  But are you ready to admit it?

THE SIGNS

You do not have to answer these questions aloud, but, between us, have you…

  • Had headaches, neck tension, stomach problems?
  • Had problems sleeping?
  • Lost your appetite?
  • Gained an appetite?
  • Lost energy?
  • Started to have virus-related worries?
  • Felt overwhelmed by the news?
  • Felt discouraged, fearful, sad, angry?
  • Had problems concentrating?
  • Are you quicker to anger?
  • Increased your use of alcohol or medicine?

 

WHAT TO DO

We have been forced out of our routines.  We have lost our peace of mind about the future.  We cannot visit with friends or family as we would like.  Every aspect of our lives has been touched by the pandemic, so it is expected that we would have a physical and emotional reaction.

For me, I was unable to write.  I fought hard to make it happen, but it did not happen.  Each time, I tried I grew more and more frustrated.  But, I gave no thought to all of the places where my creative still flowed.

 

FLOUR+ EGGS+ SUGAR+ VANILLA = CATHARSIS

For years, I saw the Facebook posts from friends declaring the desserts they were going to make.  One afternoon, my blank notebook page became a grocery list.  Frustrated, I left the house and went to the grocery store, not for toilet tissue, but for eggs, pecans, all purpose flour, and a bundt pan.  I returned without a word to my family and headed to the kitchen.

And, baking began.  I mixed and sifted and stirred.  My mind cleared. Fear and anger were discarded as I placed my creation into the oven.  And, when the timer went off, I felt a smile creep over my face.  No, I had not written a paragraph or a chapter.  I had made a vanilla bundt cake.

Elated, I made another.  This time, I tried a caramel drizzle over top.  Then, I moved to an apple cinnamon bundt.  Then, I added rum, then bourbon. The combinations felt limitless.  I was baking a cake every other day until I realized that my family and I were eating a slice of each cake before discarding it.

But the act of baking served a purpose.  Unbeknownst to myself, I had given myself permission not to write, but I had not stopped creating.

 

LEGO

Who doesn’t like LEGOs? Yes, I know we think of them as painful toys for children, but it remains as one of the only toys that impact children and adults in the same manner.  LEGOs spark your imagination and guarantee that your hands will be busy.

I did not discover LEGOs during the pandemic.  I have loved them since I was a child.  I had assembled several adult sets – here and there.

COVID-19 trapped me in the office at home.  Home became the office.  The office became home.  And, as that line blurred, I stared at the blank walls for hours.  One afternoon, I announced to my supportive and sympathetic wife that I was creating a LEGO town.

Unlike the many people who create large LEGO towns to be stored in spare rooms, basements, or garages.  I built a mini-LEGO town on an IKEA shelf I mounted above of my work desk.  I spent weeks designing it.  My wife made me a sign to place on the way.  I ordered and collected LEGO bricks, plates, minifigures, and tiles.  I watched YouTube video and become an AFOL.

After weeks of work, Sunset Brick was complete.  But, I was lost, again.  While I still work on smaller projects, LEGOs cause spatial limitations, so I moved on.

 

MUSIC SOOTHES THE SOUL

As a child, I was trained to play stringed instruments.  With a family and two small dogs, there is no room for a baby grand piano in our house.  However, you can carry the mouth organ in your pocket.  The harmonica, also known as the French harp or the mouth organ, is used worldwide in many musical genres.  It is compact and easy to learn.

I ordered one, the Hohner Special 20 in Major C, and I signed up for a course online.  And, I started to play.  I learned single notes quickly.  Then, I moved on to chords and train sounds.  When I played the Hoochie Coochie Man the first time, I beamed.  I beamed, because the sound and vibration that is produced by the harmonica causes the release of endorphins. Those hormones have lasting effects on stress and anxiety.

My mouth organ work is not done, but sitting at my desk, taking online lessons was the spark I needed.  Although it is relatively easy to pick up, you still need commitment and dedication to master it. Learning how to play the harmonica will take time and effort. However, along the way, it will also result in discipline, commitment, and patience.

 

IT ALWAYS COMES BACK TO WRITING

I let my website (thedailyk.com) end at the start of the pandemic.  I was lost.  I thought I would never write again, so there was no point to maintaining a blog.

But, then my mind started to clear.  As chords and songs became second nature, I no longer thought of how to play the harmonica, I just played.  And, as I played, my mind wandered.  It wandered back to writing.  Since I still owned the domain for The Daily K, I thought of just reinstating it.  By then, I was reading writing blogs again and realized that The Daily K blog did not represent who I was.  So, I decided to buy my name as a domain, create a true author website, and include The Daily K on it.

The work has not been easy.  I have scraped this site and started over a few dozen times.  But, most importantly, I have learned that how it looks today is not how it will look in a month. And, that’s ok.  K L Finalley should grow as I grow.

 

THE POINT

So, what’s my point? If you are where I was, rant.  Bake.  Plant.  Exercise.  Build.  Destroy.  Try something new.  Give up something old.  Repeat.

Don’t limit yourself to what you think you should be doing.  Don’t stick to the plan if the plan isn’t working.  Don’t worry about transitioning to something else.  There were no guidelines or best practices given to us as instruction on how to navigate through the pandemic.  So, suspend your thoughts on the right way.  Just create as best you can.

 

Onward,

klf