Every now and again, something happens that changes the way we look at things personally, socially, and globally. We are now in the middle of such an event. But it’s nearly always impossible to correctly assess the severity of a situation—any situation—while in the middle of it. Things always look worse than they are when they’re happening.
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Case in point—my husband and I have been unemployed twice in the twenty years we’ve been married. The first time it was for eighteen months. Those eighteen months looked unending when we were in the middle of them. But once we were again employed and had the perspective of a few months of regular paychecks, those eighteen months dwindled in importance. Years later, they seem very short, indeed.
The same will hold true of this situation. Distance gives a perspective that’s impossible in close proximity.
That’s a comforting thought for me, but clearly it doesn’t provide much help for getting from the here-and-now to the future. So what should you do now to keep your art career (and your art) moving forward, despite the quarantines and lock-downs in place?
Here are three tips that have helped me, and may help you as well:
1. Honestly evaluate your situation
The governor of my state has ordered citizens to stay at home for the next couple of weeks. Leaving the house for shopping, getting exercise, and going to work (for some) are allowed, but overall, she’s asking people to stay home.
At first blush, it sounds terrible to be asked to stay at home. Here in the US, we’ve been a very mobile society for decades. By choice, I’m not as mobile as many—I prefer to stay at home—but even I felt penned in when I heard the governor’s announcement.
But here’s the truth. . . I’ve been working at home since late 2009 (over ten years.). No current event in all those years affected my work, and this pandemic hasn’t either. I’m still working from home.
If you have a home studio and your art is your business, you’re still working too. So while it’s prudent to take reasonable precautions, there’s no reason you can’t continue studio work today just as you always have.
Here’s another way to correctly assess a situation. Don’t look at how others are being affected; look at how you’re being affected. If you’re like me, stay-at-home requests really don’t make all that much difference. So I continue to create.
It’s okay to be concerned about what’s happening in other states, other countries, and around the world, but don’t let those concerns paralyze you. For one thing, that doesn’t help anyone. And who knows, something you create during this time may help give hope, courage, and even joy to one of those people.
One final note on evaluating a situation: It’s always important to avoid hype and fear. I try not to rely on second, third, or fourth-hand information. Instead, go right to the source. My husband read our governor’s stay-at-home order all the way to the end and learned valuable information that has not been reported in any media outlets. It put the order into clearer perspective, too.
2. Take care of your mental health
Here’s the deal. None of us have the same mental makeup. Some of us are optimists. The glass is always half full. Some are pessimists. The glass is always half empty. Some are easily discouraged (raising my hand). Some can shoulder the worst of news without batting an eye.
If your creativity and emotional well-being is crushed by bad news (or any news) then don’t watch the news. Don’t listen to the news. Don’t listen to people talking about the news. It’s been my experience that the worst thing I can do to promote a healthy work environment is listen to the news. This is true in any situation, but is especially true now. If I feel like the sky is falling (and that’s what the news is claiming, isn’t it?) then why should I bother making art? What’s the point?
Let that thought take root and you may as well throw in the towel now, stop reading this article, and find a bunker to hunker down in.
So what do you do?
I took a seven-day media fast a week or two ago. I even told my husband, who is a news junky, not to tell me what he saw or heard during that time. That may sound extreme, but it kept me from sinking into a mire of depression. What’s more, I was able to focus on the work I had to do that week. Not only did everything get done, but I finished the week without being discouraged or depressed.
Think you can’t live without the news? Limit yourself to an hour a day. Do you realize that for decades, there was the morning news, the afternoon news, and the evening news? How did those people survive before the twenty-four news cycle?
The same way you will if you check the news at the beginning and end of each day instead of saturating yourself in the stuff.
That includes social media. If you must do social media for business, then limit social media activities to business. Don’t look at the latest feeds or gossip with friends.
In short, know what kinds of information encourages and uplifts you and saturate yourself in it. Just as important (but perhaps more difficult to do,) know what kinds of information discourages you and avoid it. If it’s unavoidable, allow only small doses.
3. Stick to your regular routine
Whenever possible, maintain your normal routine. Why is that important?
First, because no crisis lasts forever. Sooner or later, normalcy returns. If you’ve kept your normal routine throughout, you’ll be several steps ahead of those who choose to or were forced to give up their normal routines.
Second, if you yield to the temptation to give up your normal routine, you may find you have no interest in getting back to work once the crisis is past.
Third, most artists say that when they’re creating, they enter their own little world. It’s a proven fact that creativity is therapeutic and calming. Why do you think adult coloring books are so popular? If all you get out of your artwork is quiet time and emotional rejuvenation, it’s well worth the time spent, don’t you think?
Fourth, if you don’t create now, you won’t have new work to exhibit or sell when the current situation ends. No inventory, nothing to sell. Nothing to sell, no income. If you’re making a living on your art (or trying to) you owe it to yourself to keep working no matter what’s happening.
To sum up. . .
I know things seem bad now, but this country (let alone most of the world) has been through much worse in times past. The Black Plague. The Irish Flu. The Spanish Flu. The Bird Flu and Swine Flu. Don’t let circumstances—whatever they may be—derail you. Take reasonable precautions, and keep your head on your shoulders.