Over this past weekend, I watched a few educational sessions from the 320 Festival on mental health, and then yesterday I watched a seminar called Why the Show Must Go On... Creativity & Your Mental Health, and something I came away with was a reinforced belief in the importance of art and creativity.
As a writer, I indulge my creative impulses whenever I decide to work on a story, but there are so many other forms of creativity that I can't even list them all—painting, drawing, sculpting, jewelry-making, cooking, baking, theater, poetry, sewing, needlepoint, music, knitting, woodworking, crochet, makeup..... You get the point. With so many outlets for creativity, there's almost certainly something—or multiple somethings—for everyone.
But why does it matter?
From the beginning of history, humanoids have been creative and expressed themselves and their histories through various art forms, such as cave paintings, and we have only gotten more complex. We have told stories, gotten tattoos, built monuments and statues, and have felt the need to create for thousands of years. Creative people have been around since the beginning, contributing to history and our understanding of ourselves.
The thing about creativity is that it stimulates the release of dopamine, the happy chemical, and therefore it feels good to create. Creating art helps with self-discovery, self-esteem, emotional release, and stress relief.
On the flip side of that, there is the stereotype of the "tortured artist", who relies on their pain to create. While there is certainly a connection between creatives and mental illness, the fact is that people are more often creative in spite of their illnesses rather than because of them. The typical example is Vincent Van Gogh, who created Starry Night and many of his best works while getting treatment for his depression.
So why create now? In short, because it's good for us, both individually and as a collective. In creativity, you stimulate the production of feel-good chemicals and you contribute something to the world.
During this COVID-19 crisis, all the various artists that are streaming plays, recording songs together, sharing their craft in some way, are making things a little bit easier on everyone else. After all, what do we turn to when we want to relax or enjoy ourselves? Art. We watch television and movies, we play video games, we listen to music. Artists are the unsung heroes in times of crisis and give us a bit of relief from reality when we need it most.
In the various webinars I've watched, I've collected bits of advice in my notes that I would like to share with any creatives reading this:
Express your anxieties as they present themselves, rather than holding them in. Whether you express them through your craft or not, it's important not to bottle up your emotions and be honest with yourself and others about what you're feeling. Even if you only voice your anxieties to yourself, it's better to acknowledge them so that you may move forward.
Make a goal for your creative projects. Right now, it may be difficult to stick to your routine or feel motivated to work on your craft, but if you set a goal for yourself (like writing 30k for Camp NaNo, for example, or practicing an instrument so many hours a week), then you have something to work toward.
It's okay to fail. Find value in the process of your craft rather than the end product and allow yourself to fail. If you enjoy the process of what you do rather than just the result, it allows you to try new things, experiment, make something that you wouldn't have considered before.
As for me, I've obviously been doing some writing, but I've also been knitting, baking, working on paper crafts for my class, painting, watching theater streams, learning Russian via phone games, and engaging in other creative outlets. I can't claim to be an artistic genius, but I do find that trying different forms of art helps me maintain my sanity, plus it's just fun!
Ultimately, by continuing this pattern of creation, we follow the lead of our ancestors and fulfill some unspoken purpose within ourselves. We aren't obligated to create, we choose to, and little by little, we make the world a better place.