It is ok not to be creative in a crisis

You may have read several articles focusing on the “creative possibilities” presented by this time of social isolation. Someone in your life may have suggested that you host a self-isolating live-stream concert. Someone may have said, “It’s nice that you can be creative with this time off!”

You likely see your friends, who are artists, reaching out to their fans via live streams or sharing content about how they make the most of “time off.” There is pressure on creative people to respond positively and productively to this crisis.

I wanted to offer an alternative perspective to people who find themselves not inclined to use their creative energy to reach outward during this time. Although many people use this time to share their creative activities with the world constantly, I would like to encourage you to focus on yourself instead.

The vast Unknown may freeze you. You may only be able to sit there and think or even not think. You may need to concentrate on your family, mental health, or finances. Right now, we are in the midst of a tragedy and crisis. You are perfectly fine not to see this as an opportunity for creativity. Some people define creativity as an immediate reaction or expression. Others find that creativity is a result of deep reflection, introspection, and separation. We cannot expect to act immediately. The crisis doesn’t always lead to an opportunity.

Sam Boer, a musician, music journalist, and podcast host, puts it simply: Self-isolation isn’t an artistic retreat.We need to process things that cannot be processed through production.

I won’t give you a list of things you can try to remain calm. I won’t tell you what to do. You have my permission to do what you want to right now, whatever feels safe and right.

You may find it difficult to reach out to friends and peers right now because you are numb. I’m having trouble keeping up productive conversations about this with my partner and family, let alone my entire audience. How can I help others if I haven’t processed my emotions? I cannot possibly create the space necessary to process this in a group setting.

It is also a fundamental principle of mental health—you cannot expect to be able to serve, care for, and help others without first taking care of yourself. Even if all you do is make soup or make your bed, that’s still a good step.

In case you are looking for some resources to help you through these trying times, Unison Benevolent Fund has posted a list of practical resources for musicians – check it out if you need to:

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