North Shore Life: March & April | Creativity in the midst of Uncertainty

Hello dear readers, and welcome back to this corner of the North.

It’s been quite a while since my last post, and I’m so excited to be back. Things have changed quite a lot since I wrote last, needless to say, and amidst these wild times I realized that I never posted the remaining installments of my year-long North Shore journal. Well, consider this the next installment. Better late than never, right?

In the times that have passed, several good things have happened: I’ve made some good headway on my book and look forward to having the first draft completed by summer. We finished our tiny house and got to explore new corners of the world.

The bad? I certainly don’t need to reiterate the general state of the world that we’re all so familiar with, but our region is in a precarious place due to the virus and the ensuing economic fallout. As some of you know, we run a little vacation rental/B&B in the summers, and like many of us in the North, we’re facing unprecedented and uncertain times in a region that depends on tourism to survive.

Additionally, our little town lost three dear businesses to a fire this week, and the heartache of that loss is especially acute given these challenging times.

All in all, life just feels unstable.

gunflint-trail-minnesota-winter

Spring in the North is never a stable time to begin with. It’s not something you can count on to systematically show up when you need it to.

Spring in the North is watching as the world wavers from sultry southern breezes and sunshine on Saturday to bough-breaking winds and ice on Monday, covering your freshly-planted flowers with snow and laughing at the fact that you thought you could finally, safely put your boots away. (For the record, if you live in northern Minnesota, you play a very dangerous game by packing away your winter gear before mid-May.)

For some, spring is a time of rejuvenation; a season of renewed energy and creative spirit. But for me, the spring always leaves my creative energy feeling a bit lost. The power of winter–the brilliant stars and howls of the coyotes through the crisp night air and the sheen of the full moon across the snow–is something I draw so heavily from in my creative work. So when that winter energy fades, and is not yet replaced by the effervescent hum of summer, I feel uninspired. For me characterizes itself in a sort of mental dryness and brain fog, and an inability to look optimistically at my projects or have the drive to stick with them.

Grand-Marais-Minnesota-Winter

That’s not to say that I put everything on hold and wait for inspiration to magically show up at my doorstep. Rather, while winter is an exercise in diving into my work, spring is an exercise in patience; as the world sorts itself out, wavering between winter and summer, I can give myself the grace to sort things out as well, and to learn that patience with the world you can’t control and patience with the self that you can control are both practices that can be cultivated and improved.

Nature aside, this spring has been an uncertain and ever-changing time for all of us on this planet. With anxiety and illness, and separation and tragic deaths, and what seems like half of people out of work and the other half overworked, this spring is a raw time for all of us.

And on top of all of that, there is so much pressure within the creative community to use all of this “free time” to push yourself to the max and hustle and get ultra-productive. Because if the world came to a pause and you didn’t make the most of it, there’s no excuse, right?

Except this isn’t a vacation. And it’s not just blissful free time. What’s happening in our world is not a break or a time of peace: for most of us, it’s a time of grief and anxiety, of hearing sad news from friends far away, of missing family and counting every purchase, of filing for unemployment and just trying to stay on your feet while the world turns upside down.

It’s 100% okay if a global pandemic and economic crisis isn’t the setting where you feel your creative best.

It sure as hell isn’t where I feel my creative best, or my best in any respect for that matter. It’s the flux and waiting of spring, times a thousand.

Snowdrop-flower

So perhaps, rather than berate yourself over why you just can’t seem to finish that masterpiece or publish 30 new blog posts while your mind is riddled with stress, perhaps take this time to learn a different creative lesson than hustling.

Take the time to learn the art of patience, and listening to your body, and filling your life with things that inspire you. Perhaps even lay down that project you’ve been working on and try something completely different that doesn’t have any expectations attached to it.

As for me, while both the outside world and the inside world are topsy-turvy, I’m going to give my novel a break and get back into photography, and may even take a stab at creating my fist vlog.

And I’m going to enjoy the sunshine and the North winds, the flowers and the ice. I’m going to find patience in the mess and know that everything will be accomplished in its own time.

 

7 thoughts on “North Shore Life: March & April | Creativity in the midst of Uncertainty

  1. Beautiful, Rae. Thank you for addressing this essential message of emotional health in a time of tragic uncertainty. I’ve noticed myself struggling to slow down and creating unrealistic expectations for productivity myself. My body and mind are just not at full capacity right now. Consciously or not, I’m processing through trauma responses, and that takes a lot of mental energy. Taking time to rest and breathe is so necessary right now. Thank you for acknowledging and affirming that. ❤

    1. It is definitely necessary, even when it feels impossible. I feel like my mind keeps bouncing all over the place and I can’t focus on one thing at a time. It’s difficult but not unusual. I don’t know if I find that comforting or not, because I don’t like the idea of so many people struggling emotionally, but it’s at least helpful to know that what I’m experiencing is normal.

  2. Last March I experienced much anxiety due to health issues–the “What if this happens?? What if that happens?? What will I do then??” The worst part was I didn’t know the answers.

    Stress like that and like so many other people are experiencing does torpedo the creative energy. Your mind goes in circles, and you can’t focus and get clarity.

    Last year, after the barrage of questions kept coming, and I heard conflicting answers from health professionals, I finally said “Enough.” I said, “Lord, You’ll have to take care of this. I can’t do it.” I pictured myself giving a huge car-sized box of worry, anxiety and darkness to Jesus. He took it as though it was feather-weight, saying, “Trust Me; it’s OK; I can handle it.”

    Since then I’ve had much more peace and relief. There are challenges, but at least the horrible anxiety is gone. If it does try to return, I repeat the process. I also keep in mind that God is for us, not against us.

    1. Thank you for sharing–I’m so sorry to hear about your health issues, but I’m grateful that the peace and the lessons you learned about anxiety then are ones that you can hold with you today. Prayers for continued health during this time ❤

      1. Rae,
        Hope you and your husband are doing well. I miss your posts about writing; you are so encouraging.

      2. Thank you! I hope you’re doing well yourself. I’ve been working on a manuscript and I feel like that’s been using up most of my creative energy, but I’m definitely planning to write more on here very soon!

  3. Thank you. The health issues are not life-threatening, but they are chronic and can make everyday life uncertain, at least as far as mobility and mood is concerned. For some reason it set off a tsunami of anxiety in me. Things are much better and quieter now.

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