Creativity and Covid-19

Covid-19 and the resulting restrictions are like living in a science fiction movie only the end doesn’t arrive in two hours. We fret about toilet paper, people who invade our two metre space and loved ones that are now kept at a distance. The tilt in our world was sudden and the future remains uncertain.

People cope with stress and change in different ways. My instinct was to sleep and for the first month I clocked in nine hours or more a night plus an afternoon nap. I haven’t slept that much since I was a teenager.

My partner’s coping crutch is chocolate. During the first week of physical distancing, Rick brought home two giant slabs of chocolate cake, two pounds of Belgian chocolate and two boxes of chocolate cookies. At some point, we realized that excessive sleeping and gorging on chocolate was not sustainable long-term.

I turned, as I have for much of my life, to writing. To me, writing is a place in my mind where there are many doors and endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.

But on occasion, it’s difficult to access this place. For a while, Covid-19 was an invisible wall resulting in lots of white space on my laptop screen. And I wasn’t the only one. Artists abandoned their easels; some writers didn’t even turn on their computers.

So, how to prime the creativity pump in the midst of a global pandemic? Unfortunately, there’s no magic trick to seduce the muse into a visit. But going for a walk can produce startling results.

According to an article by psychologist Sian Beilock in “Psychology Today,” an abundance of concentration can kill creativity.  On the other hand, doing something that requires only a small amount of concentration such as washing the car, vacuuming the rug or brushing the dog often allows the brain to connect thoughts in new and perhaps unusual ways.

When I told chiropractor, Alicia Steele, that I frequently find solutions to writing problems while walking, she explained that the bilateral movement of arms and legs promotes activity in both sides of the brain.

Taking a break and doing something relatively mindless can enhance creativity. The trick is to not think about the problem you’re trying to solve.

As for stress, I’ve always found writing an escape from the worries my brain chooses to ruminate on and suspect many creative folks feel the same.

No one explains it better than Graham Greene in Ways of Escape: Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”

Photo by Rick James