Craving for Creativity: The COVID Effect
Over the past two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began back in 2020 there has been a steady rise in awareness, appreciation and craving for creativity. With our focus this month on reframing each day as a new opportunity to create, no matter the skill level, I felt it would be a good time to discuss the trends in creativity we are seeing now, from how we create to what we want to consume to the why of that singular need to consume and create art; to exercise creativity.
When COVID first shook the world, there was panic, fear, trauma, grief, denial, anger, uncertainty. To this day we are feeling those lingering effects. Workplaces, social settings, events, interaction, everything shut down and for a while was a touch and go of re-opening and entering the new normal, only to be thrust back into the abyss of absence when things shifted yet again. What was the constant in our lives? How did we cope with the uncertainty, fear and panic? What kept us grounded, allowed us to express ourselves and process this grand scale event?
Getting through it:
Creatives made their art available; museums had virtual tours free of charge, musicians put on virtual concerts, the people in Italy stood on their balconies playing music and singing with one another from the safety of their own homes during a country wide lock down with curfew and rations in place. People were learning to bake and cook and sew and garden. DIY projects became the thing to do and many of us got through our TBR (to be read) pile faster than anticipated. Children decorated their windows with posters and pictures. The sidewalks became the canvas for art and play, and as people took to the streets to keep from going stir crazy, whole neighbourhoods were able to enjoy the pictures and the fun courses in sidewalk chalk on daily walks.
As a species we are separated from the animals by our intellect - this does not only mean we can do complex math and rationalize decisions. We can create something from nothing - we can make magic with our hands. Not only can we make art, we can appreciate it as separate to basic survival, yet we understand that it is essential to our survival as the human race. This pandemic proved that. We consumed more entertainment, more art, more creativity, than ever before.
The increase in consumption of creativity has sparked a respect and appreciation for the value of artists, creatives and their content that was being lost. The realization that when all form of normalcy is interrupted, creativity soothes and grounds us in purpose and joy. Adults on burnout and hustle culture were able to slow down and re-learn how to play. Not only how, but to re-learn the importance of play. I’ve got to say it - kids today - at least a great number of them, don’t have the same play structure mentality that we had growing up. We spent hours outside with sticks playing, making up stories, running around. Now, and I can speak to this as having two younger siblings coming up in this world of accessible technology and stimulation, that they have somewhat lost that ability for free, creative play with the structure provided by video games and encouraging sedentary varieties of play and engagement.
This is not a bashing of video games and technology - that’s the way the world is going - digital, but we do lose some of that free flow play when we are told how to operate within a system. Minecraft does a great job of trying to subvert that idea with their free play worldbuilding mode, but games have to have parameters and boundaries and narratives built in to make a world that can connect and be accessible.
Creativity gave us back that feeling of purpose in a world that was fraught with uncertainty and instability.
Harnessing Creative Power:
Not only was art consumed and pursued, but creativity became a daily requirement for problem solving in a world of lockdowns and restrictions. Home office spaces were created, teaching moved to a virtual platform for all levels and social events went virtual, distanced or drive-by birthday parades. Weddings happened in backyards with a camera and a first dance in the middle of the street. We found new ways to connect with each other, to create together and to reach out in a time of instability and fear.
Creativity is all about adaptability. For as much as we rebel against rules and structure and society at large, especially as creatives, we need structure to operate in our daily lives. But when all that changed during a global pandemic, we turned to creative solutions, we turned to creativity to recalibrate and learn how to function in a time of turmoil, which is only a glimpse at what is happening in other places in the world (as I write from Canada).
Although this was a hugely divisive time, it did bring communities closer together. And nowhere is this more evident than in our post pandemic world.
Healing through Creativity:
The power of healing and processing large scale events through creativity is as close to true magic as we can get. We can heal through the creativity we consume - the stories we read, the art we observe; and we can heal through the act itself - through creating and emoting and expressing everything we do not understand, but feel deeply.
Of the myriad of examples I know exist in our post pandemic world, one that sticks in my brain is a project by @openskystories and collaborators, an inspiring author and creative coach. She, along with @boldmovesstudios host the Mail Art Stories Project: Mail Art in the Time of Covid 19. A collection of mail art from around the world depicting the state of humanity during a global pandemic. It allows us to express that which we cannot put into words. It allows us to process what we have experienced. It gives us the tools to heal and move forward in our lives with a greater understanding of who we are.
Our sudden surge in creativity is evident in the increase of creative expos, documentaries and offerings on streaming platforms, online course catalogues and places like this blog springing up. There is a course on Coursera called Healing with the Arts from the University of Florida which talks about how we can process grief through creative expression. Meanwhile Brock University has launched Brock LINC for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship to flourish.
This new craze for creativity comes from years of repressing it, defunding it in schools and undervaluing its impact on our daily lives. Though the pandemic has changed everything and, for a time, made the world more hostile and frightening, it also led to more human connection through creativity and play.
Creativity was used as a form of expression and way to process larger than life feelings. It was also used as an escape from the anxiety and fear that surrounded us, made us feel isolated and alone. Creativity is inherently play. We learn to play as children and too often forget as adults. The pandemic brought back play as a way to connect and escape, as a way to reconnect to ourselves.
Let’s give ourselves permission to continue to play and appreciate the wonder of our creative power.