I read a blog post today by a fellow artist – she’s feeling like she’s doing more than ever and accomplishing less. I understand the feeling. Day Whatever of Social Isolation (I’ve Lost Count), and I stare at the computer screen trying to get motivated to continue a story that I started to write last week. Even as I write, I see my half-finished painting beckoning me from behind my laptop screen. I’m trying to figure out why, when “time to write or paint” is something that I and other artists dream of and wish for, and it’s suddenly bestowed upon us, we can’t focus. I’m not speaking for everyone, I know. Stephen King said in an interview on NPR this week that he has almost finished writing his new book during isolation. But my attention span is shorter than ever. I don’t paint, because I know that I will need a few hours to paint, and I don’t have the mindset to commit to a three-hour endeavor. I can’t write, because writing requires concentration that I don’t have right now. I can edit – my first chapter has been revised, revised again, and edited to perfection. (I challenge you to try to find one error in spelling, mechanics, or style.) However, there is hope. This is the time to do those things or pursue those interests which we’ve “always wanted to but never had the time to.” For my daughter, it’s the violin. She bought a starter violin (I had no idea such things existed) and signed up for a masterclass. For my husband, it’s reading fiction – a genre he has finally embraced. For my son, it’s cooking – for which I am grateful, as I’ve been the beneficiary of said hobby. And for me – birds! I’ve always been interested in their movements, their coloring, their habitats, their calls – and I’ve downloaded two Apps which have helped me identify the downy woodpecker at our feeder each morning and the house sparrows who’ve been hanging out in our rhododendron tree. And, here is the result of this – a painting idea took shape while watching the birds. An abstract – a genre which, up until now, has daunted me. I’ve realized this new pursuit has opened my mind to create in a different way. And, here is something else. As the first chapter of my novel sat in isolation for a week, I decided to take a two-week mini-writing workshop on short fiction (a commitment of only 20 – 30 minutes a day) which asked some thoughtful questions about writing prompts we’d responded to. I asked those same questions of the story that I’d begun. This sparked an idea which resulted in my writing the outline of Chapter 2 this morning. Having dutifully set my timer to the suggested 20 minutes, I was surprised to find that I wrote well past that.
It is so easy to fall into ennui. The sun, which was glaring on my screen as I began to write this has suddenly disappeared, and out of nowhere, dark clouds have descended and the rain is pattering against my window. I promise you that this is not a metaphor – the weather has actually changed that quickly. And, under these trying times, so do our moods. It’s okay to roll with that. It’s okay to be a little bored, a little uninspired, and a little gloomy – for a little while. The trick, I think, is not to let that drag you down. Allow yourselves those moments, but don’t get caught in the grey for too long. Find a way to let the sun shine (okay, that was a metaphor) by doing something else – something different – whether it’s coloring a Mandala, playing a challenging board game, dancing to your favorite song – or one you’ve never heard before! – or trying to make something incredible with the ingredients that you have in your cupboard (might I suggest Chipotle bowls – if you have rice and beans you’re off to a good start).
I wish you well. I wish you inspiration. I wish you periods of sunshine to offset the periods of rain.