Lately I’ve been thinking about the many ways that creativity serves the human spirit. As a writer and artist, I have always thought of my imagination as a tool to explore the boundaries of my medium, whether it be words or a drawing pencil. But just before the state issued social distancing mandates, I had been volunteering with a local nonprofit called Write Around Portland (WAP), helping people in an assisted-living facility to write their thoughts, stories, and feelings during a weekly writing workshop. That experience convinced me that creativity can be more than an intellectual or aesthetic exploration: it can help us understand ourselves better, come to terms with our pasts, envision our futures, and heal.
The idea behind WAP’s workshops is that everyone can benefit emotionally from telling their stories. This idea, backed up by research, extends to other creative modes as well. Art therapy, dance-movement therapy, drama therapy, and play therapy are all modes used by trained therapists to awaken clients’ imagination in service of expressing and resolving difficult emotions.
The Covid-19 situation has brought more uncertainty and danger into our lives than ever before. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have given some of us a lot of extra time to sit around at home and worry. In this time of fear, I have found that writing a story or drawing a picture can be a powerful way to release pent-up tension and immerse myself in a new way of seeing and feeling.
Creative play can bring us back to our child-selves, when we didn’t judge our work so harshly, but allowed our creative pursuits to be exploratory and expressive. Creative play can be a source of learning about ourselves or simply enjoying the simplicity of colors, shapes, and ideas.
So, I recommend giving some sort of creativity a try. It won’t be a magic bullet to make you feel safe, secure, and whole, but it might just provide you with a little relief from anxiety or a moment of child-like pleasure, things that are difficult to come by in this time of pandemic.