2020. The year of changes. The year of adjusting to new living situations. The year of transitional phases. And let me confess here: I am not good with sudden changes that I am unprepared for. I freak out. I need time to adjust. There were days I didn’t feel like myself and didn’t have any motivation to create. It was not easy coming to terms with being in India for a while (didn’t at all expect 10 months!) in my ancestral home. But, once I accepted the situation and slowly started to get used to it, what kept me sane was art. I broke down a lot of times missing my beloved studio in Tianjin, but with art materials, a laptop, inspiration, a table and a chair, I found that art can be created anywhere, any place can become a workspace. And it actually turned out lucky for me, as I made my workspace in my grandpa’s office. When I worked there, I could feel his presence next to me and him blessing me from above. I realized that I can use a time like this to get inspired by these new experiences and environments and add to my artwork.
When I first started making art, I made it for myself. I made art for the pure reason that it felt good and it was fun. And that reason becomes stronger each day. Especially now, in these difficult times worldwide, I truly believe art is more important than ever. We need to stay aware and be reminded of the beauty in the world. We need to stay active, keep our creative minds alive and get those stories, words out of our heads and into the real world. Whether it’s a book, movie, comedy, music, painting, poem, dance, sewing or cooking, it is what connects us with each other, with the world.
Here is how creativity (I have been drawing, painting and writing) helped me survive 2020 and how it can help you survive these tough times as well (just give it a shot):
1. This is one that I think all of you probably already know. It comforts us, soothes us, helps reduce stress and see everything in a positive light. It is therapy, it is meditation. There are so many physical, mental, emotional benefits to doing any kind of creativity.
For me personally, it helped me escape. It was a way to get away from the crisis, the scary thoughts, the headlines in the news. It was a positive outlet to let it all out. It was a way I could take my imagination to other places and create my own dream world.
Lockdown and quarantine made us miss a lot of things. Home, close ones, travelling, restaurants and cafes, our schools and workplaces, shopping, cinemas, meeting and hugging friends and colleagues… the list goes on and on. Well, if you can’t do it in real life, draw it, paint it, sing about it, write about it, dance about it, make a video about it, laugh about it, it will make you so happy. Create your own world.
2. It allows me to express myself without talking when I can’t convey what I want to in words. Art allows me to take an internal emotion (happiness, sadness, stress, fear, anger, excitement) and externalize it visually. It gives me the perspective I need while at the same time also enables me to share it with other people without explicitly stating what I want to convey.
3. It allows me to embrace my human side, to show my real vulnerable side when I want to. With your creativity, you make people feel. The beauty of creativity is that it transcends all cultures, all languages, all borders. In the end, it is a human experience that brings people together. It gives that sense of community.
4. It allows us to document important, historical and memorable events. And we have had a huge number of those this year. It allows us to spread awareness, to raise our voices on issues we are passionate about and want to talk about. In your own style. In a way, that you know people will identify with, and resonate with. I know I know, I said creativity allows us to escape from those headlines, from these events, and it does. I am not contradicting myself here, if that’s what you are thinking. Creativity allows us to do both things.
There were times this year when I sat down to write or draw and I was not able to escape those thoughts, those images, those news articles. It was all that was going on in my mind. So I took that burning fire and poured it into my creativity. And then shared it.
5. It helps express gratitude to our warriors, to those people out there who are risking their lives to help save lives. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to our warriors, who continue to be out there. Thank you for everything! You are super awesome!
In addition to being thankful for those amazing people, creativity allowed me to be grateful for so much more. Before 2020 happened, I used to count my blessings but 2020 made me so much more aware of the power of gratitude. And creativity played a huge factor in that. From running away from all things Covid in my artworks, to writing about the real world news in my poems (and vice versa), I became thankful for the simplest things. All it took for me was a paper and pen or a laptop and a word document, to remind me that ok, we are going through a tough time but there are so many people who are less fortunate than we are. It keeps me grounded and humble.
6. It builds up your resilience and gives you time to reflect. Creating something is not easy. I can vouch for this. You first need an idea, a plan, a process of how you will go about the creation. Then you gather all that you need to begin that process. And finally you start creating. Maybe you stick to your plan the whole way through and get it on the first go. But maybe halfway through the process, you re- assess your creation and find that this is not what you wanted and then you change your plan. The second time you get it or maybe you change your plan again.
All this takes time, effort and energy and you end up spending a lot of time with yourself. During this creative process (and this happens every single time, no matter how much you create), you start to think about a lot of things. You observe yourself and understand and know yourself better. You become calmer, more patient, and more resilient. You learn and grow and emerge into a better person from when you first started the project.
7. It gives you the freedom of expression. For me, that is my favorite thing. There are no boundaries, no rules. I can create whatever I wish, however I wish, whether that’s in writing, drawing or painting. And in the process, I can learn new skills and techniques.
Remember in my previous blog post I wrote about creating an inspiration file…? Linking it here in case you haven’t read it: https://gurmsart.com/2021/03/20/how-to-stay-motivated-to-make-art/ . Well, part of my inspiration file is adding to my list (two lists actually: one is for artwork ideas and the other is writing ideas) in my journal. I keep adding whenever I see something that inspires me and comes to mind.
Before I was stuck in India, I had never in my wildest dreams thought that I would create the artworks I did this year. And the poems that just flowed out of me enough to be a book, its crazy. I could never have imagined that. None of this was in any part of the file. Which I thought was super cool because that is the beauty of creativity. Anything at any time can inspire you and change things around. I am happy that my freedom of expression and 2020 gave me a way to dive into my family memories, history and stories through my colors. I am glad I wrote about my feelings for all things life. I LOVE IT! I REALLY DO!!!
Woah, just realized how long this post got. If you read to the end, thank you. I hope this helps. If you are feeling low, just go create something and see the magic unfold. Turn your fear into beauty. Turn your frustration into hope.
This is me signing off. See you next time!