Creativity and Hope

   I thought I was finished with blogging. Creativiteach had a good run–seven years at the point I paused—and as I looked toward phased retirement, it seemed a good time to wind things down. Last spring, I thought I’d take the summer off—then summer turned to fall and here I am, a year later, finding myself not finished after all. In the meantime, the world changed.

It is the time of COVID. Here in Michigan, where the death count is high and the protests loud, it is a period of anxiety and unrest. Even the weather seems anxious, as we deal with snow in May. And yet, amidst it all, I’ve been overwhelmed by the wave of creative energy that has emerged during the pandemic. Suddenly, we have brewers making hand sanitizer in equipment designed for beer. Automobile manufacturers mobilized to make medical equipment and inventive hospital staff have devised strategies to use one ventilator to save multiple lives. Late night TV is being successfully filmed with a cell phone and proms have become virtual. And, of course, teachers have invented a thousand ways to help students stay happy and learning when they are unable to gather. As countless new dilemmas emerge, in small and large ways across the world, creative solutions are emerging as well.

I am very fortunate. I can work at home and despite the anxiety of being “high risk,” we are healthy. This means I have the gift of deciding how to spend the unexpected hours at home. There are a million projects I could—and maybe should—attend to while my schedule has been upended. Instead, I’m spending more time finishing mosaics, writing stories, experimenting with recipes, and trying to learn French than I am in cleaning the basement. As I’ve thought about my response to this stressful situation, I’ve recognized an aspect of creativity I haven’t considered before.

Creativity can generate hope.

When I took mosaic classes, one of my teacher’s most frequently uttered phrases was, “There’s nothing that can’t be fixed.” Of course, “fixed” didn’t always mean the piece turned out as originally intended, but there was always a way address the problem. Creativity, by its very nature, means that our efforts will be flawed, things won’t work, and we’ll need to go back and try again. Often that means doing things in ways we hadn’t considered, with strategies that are unfamiliar. But in the process, something wonderful happens. Through those efforts, we can come to believe that we CAN go back, try again, and be successful. Psychologists talk about “creativity self-efficacy,” the belief that we are capable of doing creative things. Today, that feels very much like hope. As I tackle my own creative dilemmas, small as they are, it reminds me that problems can be solved and that things that seem impossible today may be possible in the morning. I feel more hopeful.

And so, in these strange days that can feel isolating and fear-filled, perhaps regular doses of creativity may help. Tell a story, write a silly song, design a better mask (perhaps one children would enjoy wearing), invent a way to raise the spirits of socially isolated neighbors, design a better garden, build the best possible paper airplane, invent games with items at hand. In some ways it doesn’t matter what creative task you undertake. Take a step out. Do something you don’t know how to do. Exercise your creativity, and I suspect you’ll find the world just a bit more hopeful.

Stay safe out there.

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