Creative Escapism

Since the pandemic started early last spring, it seems that everyone has picked up a new, creative hobby. Suddenly everyone is baking, book binding, woodworking, painting, sewing, and more. With anxiety thick in the air, uncertainty lurking around every corner, and far more time than we know what to do with, it seems that everyone needed to find a new creative outlet. I have decided to call the phenomena “Creative Escapism”. I’m sure there is an official, clinical, term for it, but I call it as I see it.

I think it’s a wonderful thing.

The urge to create is part of our human nature. This is not up for debate. We have cave art and instruments dating back from the time hominids were able to craft stone tools. We have literature appearing almost as early as writing itself was invented, and oral stories and traditions that date back as far as culture itself has existed. Creation is part of who we are, so it makes sense that when the world feels chaotic and uncertain, we would retreat back to our basic nature.

My theory is that creation lends us a sense of control.

When we create, we are, in a sense, the god of our art. We bring it to life using our imagination and our will. We start with an idea and some materials and end with something completely ours. How can we not love that feeling of mastery? When everything else is out of our control, being able to imagine and craft, and build something for ourselves is empowering. It’s freeing, almost magical. It reminds us that we are now completely powerless, and no matter how bleak things appear, there is always something that cannot be taken away from us: our ability to use imagination.

Lately, I’ve felt the need to create more than ever.

I’ve always struggled with my mental health, especially my anxiety. Lately, with my new job starting to ramp up in responsibility, and my side business gearing up for our busy season, I’ve noticed my stress starting to trigger my more anxious habits. As a way to deal with the mounting pressure, I’ve picked up an old hobby of mine: painting.

Creativity doesn’t have to mean “talent”.

As I pointed out in my previous post about poetry, you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy doing it. I’m an admittedly bad poet, but I still love to write it. The same goes for painting. I am a decidedly average painter, but I love doing it, so I do. I will probably never sell a poem or a painting- ever. I will likely never be praised for my verse, or my artwork, and that’s okay. The act of creation itself is what helps me cope, not necessarily the completed product.

The point is, creation helps me escape.

When I hold a pen to write, or a brush to paint, I can leave all the stress of work behind me. I can mentally escape into a world that I control. All that matters is me and the page: not the pandemic, the economy, my bills, my clients, sales quotas, or any of the other millions of things I tend to worry about in a day. I can slip into a mental space where I can take all the time I want to create what I want. I may not be able to afford a luxury vacation (nor is travel a good idea right now), and I may not be able to drop everything to move off-grid in a rural cottage (maybe one day, but not today), but I can allow my mind to relax and wander on paper and canvas. Right now, creative escapism is good enough for me.

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