Business Musings: Creativity (Yet Another Damn Process Blog)

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Shortly after the lockdown started here in the U.S., I asked my readers and Patreon supporters to send me examples of creativity going on while artists were stuck at home. In the first week or so, it was pretty easy: Patrick Stewart reading sonnets, musicians playing with their fellow musicians on Zoom, artists giving master classes, theater companies offering recordings of free plays, and so on and so forth.

I taught a short story workshop and asked the writers to write, in real time, pieces inspired by the pandemic. Most of the stories were pretty pedestrian (help! We’re locked inside!) but some used the situation to quite good effect. So did the show All Rise, which did an entire episode showing the compromises the U.S. legal system had to make to somehow continue with (so-called) speedy trials.

Here in Las Vegas, several people hired artists to paint the plywood on the boarded up windows. As we’re reopening, number of those pieces have been auctioned off, and in at least one instance, I think the plywood window was infinitely superior to the actual store window behind it.

I never did get to that post that I had planned about creativity in lockdown. By the time I thought about writing it, the amount of creativity that was appearing online was wonderful and overwhelming. I sent a page from the Las Vegas Weekly to a friend with a list of creative things to do with kids for free, all in six-point type…and the page itself was oversized. (I couldn’t find the same links online.)

People have really stepped up, providing access to kids stuck at home, to people who still miss their entertainment, to reach out in a variety of ways. Even more heartening were the fundraisers. We had several local ones on TV because…y’know…Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world (or so it claims) and when it brings local celebrities to do a fundraiser, those “locals” are names everyone recognizes worldwide.

There were other creative fundraisers that passed by my scrolling eye—from fundraisers for restaurant employees to fundraisers for feeding people—they all raised money, and probably weren’t more than a drop in the proverbial bucket.

It’s wonderful, and heartbreaking at the same time. Heartbreaking because so many don’t have online access, so they missed a lot of this. From schooling time to the ability to play to being able to remain in touch. And wonderful, because people who are still employed or who have the time are stepping up as best they can.

I’ve been doing what I can. I’ve also been working my butt off. I finished two novels in lockdown (one that’s been underway for a while), and am working on a third (after I finish some short stories). I organized one non-fiction book, edited three anthologies (so far) and wrote a number of these blogs.

On a recent run, though, I realized that I’d been feeling like I haven’t been doing anything. It’s because I don’t have the markers—a nice dinner out to celebrate finishing a project. The tight feeling of a deadline because I want to take a day off to see some theater.

I feel like I’m working all the time and hardly working at the same time. It’s odd.

It made me realize that most of what has disappeared—at least for me—in this COVID half life—are the fun things. From seeing a movie (not at home) to going to a play to watching sports (at home) to seeing friends to having a large dinner with a large group—almost everything I do outside my house for fun and relaxation is on hold, maybe even until 2021.

Some of that has already changed a little. Las Vegas is opening a bit with a ton of restrictions. Dean and I went to a casino for the first time in 76 days last week. We saw one of the exhibits, ate a delicious albeit uncomfortable meal (with a dozen employees and three other diners far across the restaurant), and Dean played three hands of blackjack. It was nice; it was different; it was enough…for now.

But those things we escape into—from a fun run to a concert—those are gone at the moment. And I think that adds to the stress of the current time period. Of course, there’s the political stress and the crises boiling over (sometimes) and under the surface at other times.

Usually, though, we have a variety of ways to decompress. Those of us who read still have a variety of ways to decompress. We can escape through fiction. Everyone else has games with the family, video games alone (if they have enough money), and binge-watching whatever they can find.

As we took the elevator together, me on my way to my morning run, her about to walk the (little well behaved yappy) dog, one of my neighbors told me that she was getting so tired of doing everything through a screen. I can’t watch anything anymore, she said. I want to do something.

We’re starting to do things here in Nevada, but we’re doing so warily, afraid that if we do it wrong, we’ll be slapped down into another lockdown. No one is scurrying to the open casinos, no one is filling restaurants. We’re all going slowly.

I think it was that slow take that made me realize that creativity has two parts. It has the personal outlet—the act of creating—and then it has the input—the act of viewing or enjoying or consuming the creation.

We’ve spent months as creatives doing part one, but part two—especially for people who must perform in front of others—has been really hard.

The lockdown has only been for about three months in most places, not really long enough for us (at least at WMG) to finish a book, copy edit it, put a cover on it, and publish it. We’re getting some out, but the staff is home too, and dealing with educating kids along with their own health issues and stresses.

So, even for writers, we’re doing part one—the creation—and not really finishing part two.

It feels odd. And incomplete.

I don’t know what kind of creativity we’ll see after this year ends. I’m sure the events of 2020 will inspire a whole bunch of fiction, film, theater and other traditional media.

But I’m already seeing some nontraditional art forms come together. Zoom concerts. Short videos “directed” by a bunch of people all at once.

We’re getting used to seeing celebrities without make-up, watching badly lit film, listening to voices not modified by producers or filters. Some of this will ease as the restrictions on productions ease, and filmmakers can again gather to make movies/tv/recordings. But some of this will create new art forms and new ways of doing things.

I don’t know where we’re going with this.

After World War I and the pandemic that started concurrently with and then outlasted it, there was a rush of creativity, especially in the United States. The Roaring Twenties took art forms that existed pre-war and made them into something new, from film to novels to paintings.

I suspect we’ll see a similar outpouring of creativity in the next few years. We just don’t know what it’ll be yet.

I feel like we’re on the cusp of some big changes. We’re standing on a cliff face, and all that there is ahead of us is a world shrouded in fog. Gradually the sun will burn off the fog, and we’ll be able to see where we’re headed.

Right now, though, we wait, until the future reveals itself.

And all we can do, in the silence and the chill dampness, is continue to make our own art, in our own way.

I suspect that will be more than enough.

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“Business Musings: Creativity (Another Damn Process Blog),” copyright © 2020 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © 2020 by  Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Business Musings: Creativity (Yet Another Damn Process Blog)

  1. I find I can’t read at the moment. My mind won’t stay focused on the page and I realize I’ve read two pages and don’t have a clue what’s happening. And what I have read feels inconsequential, which I’m sure is just my personal mind set. I find the same with any TV binging I’ve tried. Everything is seen through the filter of the news cycle of the day and I find myself analysing every storyline and saying “they won’t be doing this anymore” instead of just enjoying the entertainment. I did a bunch of baking in the beginning of all this and new tried new recipes for meals, which felt creative, but then the scale started to climb, so that stopped. Now I’m going back to my sewing room, because the need to create is there; the need to fulfil my own sense of accomplishment is pushing me to not sit and mope. Soon we’ll be able to go to restaurants or shop or do all the other distractions that we used to enjoy. At least I hope so. But until then, I need to feel that time is not wasting, the clock has not stopped, and every minute is precious because we don’t know what disaster will come tomorrow.

  2. I was productive and creative in March and April during the lockdown, but I lost steam in May and on through June. I feel…more anxious than before about the future and mentally enervated. I need creative food. Gardening and baking feel good. Mental exertion—not so much.

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