Creative Process The Resistance

On Creativity and the Resistance

January 30, 2017

“My friends, appreciating beauty in our world and fighting for justice are not mutually exclusive activities.” – Erin Coughlin Hollowell

The world is scary and so much is urgent. I am fending off images that must be epigenetically encoded in my DNA– men at the door kind of thing. Looking for elusive balance between staying informed and awake and getting work done and being present to others and taking care of my body and spirit. My desk is strewn with tax documents, a beautiful photo book I received today as a gift, a guide called “26 ways to be in the struggle beyond the streets,” and unpaid bills. I have a headache despite having taken an Alleve a couple of hours ago.

This morning, the kids had dentist appointments early — we had to leave the house at 7:30am. I thought about how keeping routines can be very grounding when the world is so unstable. Same goes for beauty, laughter, and small moments of ordinary connection. It’s when we lose ourselves to fear and fatigue that we become powerless; there have been some great pieces in the past few days about this, such as this one. Ironically, even reading pieces like this keep your body on high alert, so I think part of the long-haul here may be taking time to unplug.

This is not the same as checking out. After all, if we relinquish our wellbeing, what will fuel the resistance?

Earlier today, amidst mental images from Germany around 1938 that won’t stop flooding my consciousness, I found myself reflecting on the nature of creative work during times of political, national, indeed global crisis on an unprecedented scale. We can learn from history, yes, and at the same time there, there is no roadmap for this moment.

Some artists and writers will turn their gaze in the direction of resistance, and thank God for this. And some will not; there will be poets and essayists and journalers and journalists and novelists who continue their creative work, without an explicit focus on the current state of affairs. Others still may be seriously doubting the importance of continuing at all.

We need all the voices now, and any hierarchy here will only fragment our efforts.

I turn to Pirke Avot, Ethics of Our Fathers for guidance:

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

I consider the voices of folks in my current writing groups. So many of us finding it difficult to concentrate at best, and questioning the purpose of our work at worst. There’s the conventional wisdom that none of this is accidental; the current administration is clearly intent on overwhelming us, hitting so many fronts at once, from cabinet appointments to sweeping travel bans to purging the State Department; I’m sure they are depending on us becoming exhausted and uncoordinated. We will prove them wrong.

Our creative work — whatever form that may take for you — is more important now than ever. Do not allow this insanity to overtake your creativity. Let your commitment to sitting down and showing up not shrink, but grow in direct proportion to the madness around us.

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  • Tara Borin January 30, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Love this, Jena. I blogged this morning about my own decision to keep making beautiful things in spite of all this darkness. Your post let’s me know I’m on the right path!

    • jenarschwartz@gmail.com January 30, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      And your post lets me know I am, too.

  • Diane January 30, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    “Small moments of ordinary connection” – these have been feeding my spirits and healing my heart these days – checking into your blog has been one of them

    • jenarschwartz@gmail.com January 30, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      I can’t tell you how much that means to me. xo

  • sarahwbartlett January 31, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” Yes. This, and also caring for ourselves so we can be present. Thank you, Jena.

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