On dabbling when grappling with crisis

Often when I can’t write (usually when I’m holding down a soul-sucking corporate gig or have some other sort of ongoing crisis in my life), I turn to other forms of art I have practiced over the years but would never define myself as a practitioner of… Music, painting, photography, etc. I haul out the guitar and play a few numbers or draw something or go for walks to photograph plants (for some reason…) I usually find it restorative. It’s like charging a battery. However, I started writing a piece of commercial fiction in late September and got about 250 pages done by Christmas, and was feeling pretty good about it. Then Snowmaggedon hit here in Newfoundland and we were in a state of emergency until about halfway through February. Then just as that was settling down, and because we were paying attention, we could hear the distant train horn of The ‘Rona speeding down the tracks and decided to just stay huddled against the vagaries of the cruel world. This is all to say that I’ve been struggling to write since the first days of January, but have not allowed myself the luxury of wandering off to other creative endeavours. Just trying to keep the words coming. Certainly haven’t written 250 pages in this three month debacle. Maybe I should just cave and bang out some Merle Haggard on the old gittar. It’s nice to see this person coping.

For me, creativity comes when I “get out of the way” of whatever the impulse is; I feel like a vessel through which ideas are channelled. It’s such a curious thing, this muse. Do I write my own stories at all? Sometimes, when I’m writing, my protagonist does or says something that surprises me. How is that even possible when it’s come from my own brain? The easiest comparison I can make to this experience is falling asleep – let it happen, and it happens, but if you try to force it, you’re a lost cause.

This week I can’t get out of the way. The dialogue about coronavirus echoes on in my head: Italian death counts, hand washing, British prime minister Boris Johnson and the women on The View eviscerating US president Donald Trump. All these opinions, more and more ideas and words . . . my head is too cluttered with them to come up with a few new ones.

But, in the absence of words, a different creativity has emerged.

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