“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”—Arthur Ashe
During this period of quarantine, I’ve heard many authors lament their inability to reach ambitious writing goals. With all this extra time at home, every writer should be polishing dozens of manuscripts and concocting a slew of brilliant ideas. Right?
Sure, it’s happening for some. A few writers on social media are boasting high word counts and multiple drafts. This leaves the rest of us scratching our heads and wondering why we can’t find our muse. But there’s nothing wrong with us. We’re functioning quite normally. One word explains it: Stress.
Many studies confirm that stress kills creativity and we’ve likely experienced this truth. It feels nearly impossible to relax and reach “the zone” if we’re concerned about our childrens’ schoolwork, the month’s rent, germs at the store, when we will go back to work, if a loved one will recover, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention our regular writing routines have been so disrupted. We’re living through a historic pandemic and naturally, that will impact our creativity. So go easy on yourself. Attempting to write might be squeezing your brain too hard for very little juice. Perhaps you’re too preoccupied with other concerns to put forth the mental work that writing requires. And that’s okay. Right now, we must focus on surviving.
Ironically, it’s also true that creativity is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Several studies support this as well. You may have heard how Shakespeare produced a masterpiece during quarantine—King Lear. Perhaps he wasn’t worried about paying the bills or catching the plague himself. But maybe it was his way of coping with the stress. King Lear is a rather bleak story, after all.
I believe the creative process can help us wherever we’re at. If stress is too high to write effectively, try something easier on the brain. Writing is hard work. Start with a simpler creative project.
Draw or paint a picture, play a musical instrument, knit, bake, design a home layout, or try woodworking. Decorate your home, make crafts, plant a garden. These simple projects can reduce your stress enough to get you back into writing. As the creative juices start flowing, let them heal your soul. Creativity is therapy, even in small doses. And consistent efforts, even meager ones, bring significant results. You may look back and find this time of isolation produced your finest work after all.
4 thoughts on “Stress kills Creativity. Creativity reduces Stress. Which one wins?”
Your comments describe my world perfectly right now. Thank you for saying it so well.
You’re right. The movie, Elf, illustrates that stress kills creativity when the staff was attempting to put together a book in one day. This contemplative article has caused me to reflect on the stress I have been going through. I think my key to creativity is hope. Reflective impressions like, “This too shall pass” reduces the stress and the creative juices flow. We need to focus on what gives us hope.
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Wise words from Melissa. I find that I can only focus on a very limited number of tasks and projects even though time is aplenty! It helps to be reminded of simple ways to reduce stress.
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Love your writing Melissa! You just inspired me to go start a project:)