Creative Coward

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Since the COVID-19 lockdown, I have become a coward.

Succumb to guilt (shame) and anxiety, this lack of courage to write, draw, or paint has ‘locked down’ my motivation.

Three pastel painting torn from the easel following multiple attempts to put pigment to paper. Half finished sketches. Draft, after draft of articles and/or stories.

Simply… I’m stuck.

A huge creative block. A big brick wall constructed with those deamons Steve Pressfield describes.

The platitudes saturated on social media have become meaningless.

I sit at my desk, my studio; all my tools easily accessible. But out of reach. There it is… (insert any distraction ie Facebook, email, news scroll); I’ll do that instead.

I’m weak. No, more like anesthetized. Working at the grocery during this public health crisis has tapped me out. I’m a sponge when it come to empathy and I’ve surrendered to the pain, confusion and anxiety of the community.

The ‘essential worker’ role I have as a floral clerk at the store is a labor of love. Emphasis on labor as we haul boxes and buckets. Serve up bunches and bouquets with a smile under our masks. Most of our customers are in a grab-n-go mode, but since Chicago has entered Phase IV of reopening, I’m doing more on-demand creations.

I finally finished the ebook layout of my recent book, Cecelia’s Garden. Adapting a heavily illustrated print book of short stories to non-fixed layout for tablet is challenging for this die-hard publication designer. Sure, I’ve been producing ebooks (PDFs) for decades. This project, I dove into the flex layout which pushed me think differently.

Ironically, Cecelia’s Garden is about creative thinking and how we apply it in the day-to-day activities‒often without recognizing it.

On the positive side, my husband and I have been remodelling our kitchen. Design choices (um, compromises). Balancing vision against our budget. De-construction. New installations. I INSTALLED OUR NEW FAUCET! (No leaks!!)

Did we have a Spring this year? It seemed to flash by more quickly than last year. Spring is my favorite season; it fills me with the joy and hope of renewal.

Another minor accomplishment was the ‘vectorization’ of two of my pastel paintings (which I did during the winter). Converting each into modern and scalable digital art. Another product derived from my art.

After listing the brief accomplishments described above…. not so bad. Somewhat productive. But, why do I feel that my creative energy, my MOJO, has been lacking? I acknowledge that I’m guilty of procrastination and distraction which fuel low self-esteem. Voices in my head driving me crazy with “lacks talent”, and “no vision”. Ugh…. STOP!

How do you conquer “creative cowardice”?

Here’s my Phase IV strategy:

Routine, can or cannot include a ritual that doesn’t involve the mobile phone. Early morning is best for me.

Use journaling to boast about small ‘wins’, like finishing the production and public release of Cecelia’s Garden Kindle version, successfully installing a faucet. Other entries highlight my humble observations of how people are enduring this pandemic.

(Re)Start painting. It doesn’t matter the outcome, the process of applying pastel and using your hands is most important right now. This is referred to as process.

Doodle. Draw. Scribble. Write. The action of using the pencil and its connection to the brain, eye and hand is extraordinary. Because ‘drawing is thinking.”

Study the Masters. Half of the books* I’ve read since early March were about Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael; certainly lessons to learn about form, light and color.