Create, create, create!

I follow Elizabeth Gilbert on Instagram. You know who I mean, the author of best-sellers like Eat, Pray, Love. Although I have to admit I have never read Eat, Pray, Love, nor did I see the movie. But I have read a book by her titled The Last American Man. I have a beat-up copy that I bought at some flea market once when I was starting out on my research project on men opting out. At the time, I devoured any books about men I could get my hands on of any genre in order to gain insights into the strange and mysterious world of masculinities (I’m kidding about the strange and mysterious… sort of 😉 ).

Anyway, The Last American Man is a biography, or maybe rather an ethnographic account of the somewhat legendary Eustace Conway’s life and existence (no I hadn’t heard of him either until I read the book). And this might not sound like the most exciting read, but it was really an excellent book. The way Gilbert approached the whole situation and her style of writing was funny, entertaining, insightful, thoughtful and just so good. It was certainly a good read, and I became curious about this best-selling author that I of course knew of but who hadn’t really piqued my interest before. When things become hugely popular and everyone is talking about them and you’re constantly told that you have to read, see, try, do something, I get a little bit put off and then I just don’t. I know, I can’t really explain it, but there you go…

So after that, I stumbled across Gilbert’s Instagram account @elizabeth_gilbert_writer and I have to say, I really enjoy her posts. Again, what a funny, generous, positive, insightful and sensitive person. The other day she was interviewed live on Instagram, which I watched part of, and something she said just resonated with me. I can’t remember it exactly word for word, so I might get this wrong, but what it in essence was, was that we all have a natural drive – a need – to just create, create, create. Not just people, but also nature, nature of course creates too. It includes everything from creating life, creating order where there is none, creating art, creating beauty, creating meaning, creating connections, creating music… It’s what we do; we create, create, create.

I don’t know if I’m able to convey this in a way that makes any sense, but it just made such perfect sense to me as I was sitting there in my kitchen on a Sunday evening, preparing myself for another week of social distancing and distance schooling (my kids) and (what feels like) a million meals and absolutely maddening amounts of dirty dishes. Ironically, or perhaps not, this feels like one of the most creative periods of my life, which kind of sounds funny since I’m not painting nearly as much as I usually do.

About three weeks ago, like for so many others, my calendar was wiped clean. Everything I had planned, events, talks, silk painting courses, my exhibition… everything was either canceled or postponed. That is generally bad news for entrepreneurs (and I know there are so many entrepreneurs out there really struggling right now), but in a way it was a blessing in disguise, because I finally had the time and space I so badly needed to actually finish writing my book. And I am making great progress – I’m planning on having my first draft of my manuscript done by the end of April (I know can you believe it?! I barely can).

That is of course very creative to say the least. And I want to point out to those of you who were thinking you were going to work on that book you always dreamed of writing during the Corona lockdown but haven’t been able to get started: this isn’t that. There is so much to deal with both practically and emotionally during this time that just managing to get what has to be done from one day to another is more than enough. It really is, so don’t beat yourself up about it. This is my day job, what I am supposed to be doing but have been struggling with due to a lack of time. It’s not a dream I’m finally making happen (although in a way it’s that too, but that’s a long story).

But that’s just my book. I think for all of us, this is a time when we really have to be creative and do things differently, and I think people are rising to the occasion in a way they probably never thought they had in them.

I’m not doing the heroic work that health care workers are doing, or my kid’s teachers who are absolutely amazing. For me it has entailed being creative in the kitchen and cooking a variety of meals like never before. It has meant walks in my nearby forest, which have become so important to me. It has meant activities with my teens. And for the past couple of days it has meant sewing a whole bunch of face masks for family members who need them.* It has meant doing things I have never done before, and it has meant doing them in a way I have never done before. All of a sudden, I’m at home and I have time on my hands because I have nowhere to be. It means that I allow things to take the time they take. I do them slowly and perhaps not surprisingly, doing things slowly makes the process both more enjoyable and more meaningful.

As I sit here, and wait this situation out, I’m not dreaming of all the things I could be doing instead. I’m just here, and I create, create, create. I create so much that I have little creativity and energy left to paint. But that’s okay. My upcoming exhibition has been postponed, so I’ll have all the time in the world to do that once my book is written.

The point is, we all create, and whether you have been defined as a creative person or not has nothing to do with it. So, in that spirit, remember: create, create, create! And while you’re doing so, stay safe and well!

 

*If you want to make a face mask of your own, you will find a free pattern here: https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/

 

Notes from a writer’s desk

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been making a lot of progress on my book during the past few weeks. You know the book, the one I’ve been talking about for the past couple of years… if not more. It’s the one about men opting out. Yes, that’s still the one, and honestly, I’m getting a bit sick of talking about the fact that I’m still working on it. When people ask me what I’m doing and I mention that I’m working on my book, they often say, ‘Oh what book are you working on now?’ Then they seem genuinely surprised that it’s still the same book. And yes, IT’S STILL THE SAME BOOK!

To be fair, a book project takes a while, especially if you aren’t working on it full-time. Several years to write a book is not unusual at all (I admit, I’m partly also saying this for my own benefit…). Also, an academic book may take even longer because you have to weigh every word, look things up, find research and citations to support your statements, find other research that provides other perspectives for a more holistic understanding, and then again weigh every word so that you don’t misrepresent anything and by no means make any sweeping generalizations because reality really is more complicated than that… So it takes a while.

But now that I’m settled in my Art Place and things are happening on that front, I’ve given myself this spring to finish my manuscript and I have to say it’s a relief to finally be able to focus on my writing again. When I wasn’t able to focus, I started doubting myself. I started wondering whether I maybe didn’t have it in me to write another book. Maybe I was just a one-hit wonder…? Trying to write while not being able to focus for whatever reason just made the process frustrating, inefficient, and frankly quite depressing. But now I’ve made time and space for it, because let’s face it, I need to get on with my life, and I’m happy – no, actually I’m thrilled to report that I’ve started to enjoy the process again and I’m making progress. I can do this! I can write another book and I will!

I’ve started to look forward to the days when I can focus on writing again.

I’ve realized I still have thoughts and ideas that I want to get down.

I’ve realized being a woman and writing about masculinities isn’t as daunting as I thought it would be.

I’ve realized I still have things to say.

So, on that happy note, I’m going to sign off here. I was actually going to write this post about men, masculinities and the media, because that is what I have been working on today, but I’ll save that for next time. Stayed tuned because it’s fascinating stuff!

Until then, happy spring! (Although there is a blizzard outside my window at the moment. Now finally, when we don’t want it anymore, winter deigns to show up?!)