Creativity and Recovery - How Art Helped Me Survive The Pandemic

Jiya George

August 08, 2021

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Having been exempt from studying language due to my disability, I had to take up another subject in place of language for my 10th boards. My school offered 'Art and Painting' as there wasn't any other subject available and I was the only student in that term.

I would go for extra classes after school as I had no idea about painting and it required a lot of effort and practice to get a decent grade at it. Finding it exhausting and dull as it was more of a subject than a hobby to me, I lost my interest in learning it but still managed to get a pretty good grade in my boards. And that was the end of it until 12th grade.

Like they say, crazy times make you do absurd things, during the last few months of my 12th, I picked up my paintbrush again. Out of the blue, I felt the need to paint and that's what I did instead of preparing for the final exams. Few months into college, I couldn't make time for it and forgot about it completely. The only art I would do was doodling my notebooks during classes. When the pandemic started, who knew that if not the virus but the numbers and happenings around the world would affect my health?

The threat of infection, lockdowns and social isolation gave way to fear and anxiety in me. Having to go through quarantine after coming back home, my health worsened even after I tried to avoid anything disturbing and stressful. I would get restless and nervous, at most times lost my appetite and my social anxiety reached its peak on my birthday. Everything being online, from classes to get-togethers, this was hard and uncomfortable for someone who could otherwise be able to easily adapt and adjust in any situation.

With the aid of my mother's friend, a psychiatrist, I was introduced to art therapy. Knowing about my previous short-lived affair with painting, she reasoned with me that it was something I chose for myself to destress during that time and asked to pursue it again to become better. Thus, I decided to learn more on art and painting and during one of the sessions, I got acquainted with art journaling.

Art Journaling - The act of cutting things up like paper and using tangible art supplies, sticking them, writing and drawing over them somehow equates to the idea of de-stressing and unwinding our thoughts. I guess that the amount of patience this activity requires and how pretty effective it proves to be makes it therapeutic. It's like a visual diary, with art and poetry expressing yourself when you can't voice it out.

Writing has the power to help us remember, understand and heal, as we all know. By writing down on the pages of the journal, it bares our identities because they are composed out of our own distinct handwriting, reflections and intentions. It helps to heal because I can then think distinctly through the events and put them in words. Writing feels safe and the issues I have to process are confined within the spaces of the journal pages. In addition to that, it feels like I am the author and protagonist of my story, and it is deeply personal - a complex code that cannot be deciphered even with hammers of knowledge. Only I know the intention behind my words.

Looking back at my previous entries, I'm reminded of the events of that particular day and how I felt during that time. It helps me understand how I could cope up at that time and how I've changed since then. This reminds me where I was stuck at that time, providing a glimpse and sense of hope to where I've to go yet.

While reading 'The Artist's Way' by Julia Cameron, I came across another method of writing called the 'Morning Pages'. According to the popular author and artist, this was originally introduced as a technique to help artists get out of their creative blocks and start creating. She writes, "Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*- they are not high art. They are not even 'writing.' They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind- and they are for your eyes only." This is now a popular journaling method known to inject clarity, focus and direction into our lives.

At first, I was bewildered when I read this technique. The idea of waking up and writing three pages the first thing in the morning looked impossible and crazy to me. But wanting to give it a try, I started with one side of a page on the first day and now it's a habit in my daily routine to write three pages every morning. It serves as a 'braindump' for me where I can jot down all my thoughts that I wake up to and helps me organize and clear my mind to focus on my day.

I guess that this pointless activity has actually shaped me into a better person, being in tune with my intuition and silencing my biggest enemy - my inner critic. It also brings me serenity and helps calm my anxious mind for the day. I've also been able to think laterally and creatively a lot more and grow as an artist.

Now whenever I feel lost or bored, I pick up my pen and notebook to make an art of what's on my mind, my feelings and thoughts. In that flow, I forget all my worries and focus on unleashing my creativity. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, best-known for his concept of flow and positive psychology, defines flow as "a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it."

During this period of optimal attention, we are completely focused on the task at hand and not worried about the time, bodily sensations or any other needs. Therefore working on our creation can feel quite euphoric. This state feels like a good place to be, where we can stimulate our minds, embrace mindfulness and experience feelings of achievement or skill.

No wonder we all have been clinging to art during these times, in any and every form - movies, poetry, writing, music, drawing, e.t.c because we desperately do not want to worry. We want to know that we aren't going crazy and cheer ourselves in this desolate and bleak period. Because of what it has made me today, I believe art has the power to heal and restore faith in yourself.

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