There’s a notion going ’round that what with the lockdown / social distancing most of us are doing these days – when “Wash your hands!” and “Six feet apart” are the new “How ya doin’?” and “Good, you?” of our day – that we should really be getting a lot more done creatively. Write your novel! Take up painting! Now there’s finally time for you to study belly button lint sculpting like you’ve always wanted to!
And I suppose you could do all of those things, but I think the question is really… should you?
If you’ve been on social media for more than five minutes in the last month (that particular relapse for me is another post entirely), there’s a fair chance you saw the meme talking about William Shakespeare writing King Lear in quarantine. While there’s a bit of a debate about whether that’s actually true, I can nod along to the overall spirit of the thing. Yeah, if you’re stuck in your house for a prolonged period of time, it stands to reason that you might as well do something productive with your time, right?
The trouble is, so much of art depends on ambience, and I’m not talking about mood lighting.
Sure, during the best of times, artists will have their own things they’ll do to create a mood, and lighting is one of them. But, as we’re all pretty well aware of now, these aren’t the best of times and ambience has taken on a whole new meaning.
News, social media, and death tolls have now become the wallpaper of our lives. We can choose to not pay attention, to ignore the ugly patterns and rips, the misaligned seams, and the grotesque colors – but it’s impossible to block it out entirely. Shift a little bit, catch it out the corner of your eye, or innocently look away from what you’re doing to daydream a bit an d there it is, ready to smack you in the face.
In the latest episode of Fatman Beyond, Marc Bernardin made a good point when he said that it’s tough telling stories because he feels stuck in a story that he doesn’t like. That really woke me up because it helped me understand part of the reason I’ve had such a hard time getting out of first gear when it comes to writing. Even in poetry, I feel as though stories are being told – maybe abstract or weird, but stories nonetheless. I don’t want to write COVID poetry, I don’t want to write about politics right now, I don’t particularly want to rehash what my feelings are going through because it seems like they’re so close to surface now anyways.
So how about this… Instead of trying to shame / push people into being productive in the midst of a worldwide trauma, let’s all support the hell out of each other. If you want to write the Great American Novel because that’s what will help you stay sane cooped up with your whole family, find someone(s) who’ll cheer you on and give them updates as well as the rough days. If you need to spend a couple days on the couch watching reruns of Lost to bring your stress level down to a manageable level, that’s cool too – I’m sure there’s some folks online that’ll discuss it with you.
Whatever it is you’re doing, try to find some joy in it. If there’s no joy, then find something else. If it’s something you have to do, then do it the best you can and be sure to find something else that will bring you a degree of joy in your day.
Be good to yourself and to the people around you. Especially the ones you’re in lockdown with. After all, they know where you sleep.