The World Needs Creatives More Than Ever

By SUE COLETTA

I read an article recently that gave writers permission to stop writing during these trying times, and it really resonated with me. Not because I long to stop creating—perish the thought—but being granted the permission not to write lifted some of the pressure from the “new normal,” which isn’t easy, as Clare mentioned last Monday.

Perhaps you can relate.

Do you feel guilty about not hitting the keyboard as often as you normally do? If you do, consider this your permission to stop writing. Just don’t stray away for too long. As we like to remind you from time to time, it’s important to keep our creative juices flowing. 🙂

As a self-professed research junkie, I wondered if creatives might feel the pinch more than non-creatives. Turns out, back in 2015, researchers conducted a study on stress and creativity.

The main reason for the connection between anxiety and creativity is imagination. The dichotomy lies in the fact that the same brain that conjures up inventive paintings, poetry, and music can also get trapped in repetitive thoughts and dreadful worries.

According to an expert at Evergray Digital Media, these individuals use their imagination to visualize something before it happens, whether it’s a piece of art or an issue (whether real or made up) that frightens them to cause feelings of great concern and panic. People with both traits also tend to overthink and over-analyze everything, which can make them more anxious and even neurotic at times. Interestingly, dwelling on one’s fears might be the very root of creativity and problem solving.

It’s difficult to recreate creativity in a lab setting. So, my theory runs a bit deeper into what might be causing creatives to lose focus. I say, many creative types are empaths, at least on a certain level. We need to be, don’t you think? How else could we slip inside a character’s skin?

Being an empath is different from being empathetic. Being empathetic is when your heart goes out to someone else. Being an empath means you can actually feel another person’s happiness or sadness in your own body.

In empaths, the brain’s mirror neuron system — a specialized group of cells that are responsible for compassion — is thought to be hyperactive. As a result, empaths can absorb other people’s energies (both positive and negative) into their own bodies. 

Empaths are the medicine the world needs and they can have a profound impact on humanity with their compassion and understanding… The key skill is to learn how to take charge of your sensitivities and learn specific strategies to prevent empathy overload. — Dr. Judith Orloff

Let’s conduct an experiment.

Are you really intuitive when it comes to friends and family?

Can you sense conflict before it hits?

Do you pick up on the emotions of others, even those you’ve just met? How about those you’ve never met in person (aka online friendships)?

Can you sense when someone isn’t telling you the whole truth?

Do you feel drained after being around certain people?

If you answered yes to these questions, you could be an empath.

Empaths are highly sensitive individuals, who have a keen ability to sense what people around them are thinking and feeling. Psychologists may use the term empath to describe a person that experiences a great deal of empathy, often to the point of taking on the pain of others at their own expense. However, the term empath can also be used as a spiritual term, describing an individual with special, psychic abilities to sense the emotions and energies of others. — PsychAlive.com

When I say creatives are empaths, I’m referring to the psychological definition. Other signs may include an overpowering sense of intuition. It drives my family crazy when I know something’s bothering one of them, even if we’re only communicating via text. I’m not psychic, as some would like to believe. I’m simply in tune with my intuition.

Without attaching labels, I think we can all agree that creatives need a healthy dose of empathy to view the world through a writer’s lens. If you missed Jordan’s post last week, read it. I’ll add one tip to her list: give yourself permission not to write. If you’re feeling distracted or overwhelmed, take the time you need to process your new normal.

During these turbulent times, an overabundance of empathy can suck the life right out of you. Thus, it’s important to develop self-protection mechanisms, like deep breathing exercises and communing with nature. Ridding one’s psyche of negativity promotes balance and good mental health.

There’s a lot of beauty in this world. If we take a moment to find it—the chipmunk who grins at a shelled peanut, the goofy antics of a squirrel, dog, or cat, the magnificent agility of crows and ravens, or the gentle whisper of silence—we can lessen the heavy burden of our new reality.

 

The world needs creatives more than ever before. So, let’s rise to the challenge.

As writers, what can we do to help folks stuck at home? One idea is to ask your subscribers if they’d like to read a free novel to help pass the time. I did, and the response was overwhelming. I’m still receiving emails from readers in my community. It feels wonderful to give back!

This seems to be a growing trend among creatives.

Many of our favorite recording artists are performing free home concerts under the hashtag #TogetherAtHome (link includes 80 concerts). On StorylineOnline celebrities read books to children (16 books and climbing).

Have you come across something beautiful that’s touched your heart? Share it with us in the comments. C’mon, creatives! Let’s lavish the world with our gift. What are other ways writers can help the community adjust to the new normal?

 

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About Sue Coletta

Member of MWA, Sisters in Crime, and ITW, Sue Coletta is an award-winning, bestselling crime writer of psychological thrillers. She also writes true crime: PRETTY EVIL NEW ENGLAND is anticipated to hit stores in Fall 2020, published by Globe Pequot (Rowman & Littlefield). In 2017, 2018, and 2019, Feedspot awarded her Murder Blog as one of the Top 100 Crime Blogs on the Net (Murder Blog sits at #5). Learn more about Sue and her books at https://suecoletta.com

30 thoughts on “The World Needs Creatives More Than Ever

  1. My youngest daughter (my 8 year old kitten) provides me with more light and laughter every day than anyone deserves. My little homicidal muffin on legs is an absolute blessing, and she even drives me to the keyboard on days when I might not otherwise go. 🙂

    And wow. “I’m not psychic, as some would like to believe. I’m simply in tune with my intuition.” Thanks for providing a Quote of the Day for my Journal.

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    • Hahaha. “My little homicidal muffin on legs.” Sounds like a concept for a novel. 😉 Seriously, though, I love that your daughter is your “something beautiful,” Harvey. She sounds lovely.

      Stay safe, my friend. xo

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  2. Thought-provoking as always, and your graphics made me chuckle, so thanks for that. I think writers are under an enormous amount of pressure to write, every day. There’s a lot of advice on the web that encourages, pushes us to write as much as we can, every day. Lately, that’s not always possible. so thank you for your advice.
    You DO make a difference.

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    • Like you, all I ever read lately is write, write, write. I agree that writers should write often, but we also need a break like everyone else. When I read that article, a funny thing happened. By giving myself permission not to write and instead, put my house in order and check in with family and friends, I came back to the keyboard refreshed. Yesterday, I watched movies all afternoon. This morning, I can’t wait to dig into my WIP. It’s a balancing act that I think is important.

      Aww, thanks for the kind words, Carolyn.

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  3. One of the dividing lines between a professional writer and a hobbyist attitude is whether you can push forward with your writing during stressful times. The death or major illness of a loved one is a prime reason not to push forward. Worry and the kids under foot isn’t what I’d call a prime reason. Your definition of a prime reason may vary.

    The nicest compliment I’ve ever received from readers is a big thank you for giving them a safe and happy place within my books when they are sitting at the bedside of a dying family member or some other traumatic event in their lives. I’ve been there myself, and I’ve felt that gratitude. That’s why we push forward during rough time.

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    • Wow, Marilynn. I’m a little shocked by your comment. I’ve worked as a professional writer for years, and have always conducted myself as such. But that doesn’t mean I’m not human, with real emotions. I find it sad that you totally missed my point.

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  4. Right now, I prefer spending time with my characters over seeing the way real people are responding to this mess. Stress has impacted my attention span, and the writing is slower, but I’m still writing every day. I gave myself permission to write less, but I’m still writing. And … sigh … since we put our housekeeper on hiatus, I’m using some of that “less writing” time to keep up with the cleaning. At least Hubster’s pulling his weight on that front.

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    • That’s exactly my point, Terry. Thank you! Perhaps I should’ve written “write less.” Everyone has different circumstances, so I figured I’d just put it out there and let writers decide what works best for them.

      Happy to hear the Hubster’s pulling his weight! 🙂

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      • I thought your point was right on.

        Yesterday, what with wondering what our governor was going to do about a lockdown in Washington state, and wondering how my father would react at hearing that we wouldn’t be able to visit his retirement center here in town until after 4/8, instead of our usual weekly visit, I was only able to create half a voice journal.

        My current WIP is proving difficult for me. So I’ve been varying my creative efforts with said voice journals, research, reading JSB craft books, and listening to music. I walk outside several times a day with our dog, who is quite entertaining at times. And I actually respond to my husband’s comments at times. 🙂

        And for this post (which I enjoyed, BTW), I decided to actually answer your question…below.

        Thanks Sue, for making me focus on “the something beautiful that’s touched my heart.” There’s so much discourtesy out there, I’m almost glad for social distancing. But if I dig, I will find beauty. It’s out there.

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        • Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Deb. I agree, it’s tough out there. Keep looking for the beauty. This too shall pass. xo

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  5. Oh, have I got a couple of stories for y’all. I’m bursting at the seams with pride.

    My son, Chris, owns a real estate development company in our town. He has many commercial properties he and his team have developed. He also has 18 residential properties. Recently, he was in the local news here in the PNW. He threw out a challenge to local landlords to forgive the April rent for their tenants, as he is doing. He’s not a creative in the way of artists and writers, but in the idea market. He absolutely wants to give back to our community, and this mother couldn’t be more proud.

    The other story is about my nephew’s wife, Mariah. They live in a small Montana town. She has her own photography business, specializing in family and pet portraits. She recently developed a new project she called “TheFrontStepsProject”. She travels to her neighbors’ homes, social distances at least ten feet from their front porches, poses them, and does a photo shoot. They’re absolutely gorgeous! And she’s giving the photos to the families as gifts.

    I’m so proud of her, and my son, for their giving natures. And for modeling this generosity to their children and their communities in this difficult moment in time.

    They inspire me! Thanks for letting me brag on them a little… 🙂

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    • Love what your kids are doing, Deb! Your son’s generosity is a reflection of you, proud mama. And your niece…what a beautiful thing to do. Thanks for sharing such uplifting stories. I’m inspired just reading about them.

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  6. Wow! I can’t write a word during this shutdown. I can’t focus on imagining adventure and crisis while I’m already the protagonist in my own medical thriller! I have been able to read, but I just can’t picture scenes to write. Ironically, I’ve never had more time to write than now.

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    • You’re not alone, Phillip. I’ve heard this a lot lately, and I feel writers struggling. It breaks my heart. Give yourself permission to take a break. A funny thing happens when you do. Your creativity will overflow once the pressure is off. Reading is a great idea. Another trick you could try is journaling. Write down what you’re feeling and how it makes you feel.

      Writers like you are who I wrote this for. Take care of yourself.

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  7. Huh…this made me reconsider what has been coursing through my brain this past week. I feel no urge to write. It is gone. All I want to do is mindless stuff like gardening and cleaning. After reading your post, I think I get why. I am using all my creative juices to make life easier and more sane, and yes, even happy, right now. Which is what I will be posting about tomorrow.

    The writing can wait. 🙂

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    • Exactly, Kris. I went through a similar stage of doing mindless stuff. It’s tough to concentrate with the world in disarray. Once I gave myself permission not to write, the creativity floodgates opened wide. Funny how the mind works, eh?

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      • I think part of this phenomenon is that in a crisis, we internally “circle the wagons”. Meaning we seek to control what we can control. We can’t control the chaos “out there”, but we can drill down and take the reigns of our own selves and our own little environs.

        This is really an interesting discussion, Sue. Our brains, be they right or left, in a crisis, discard the non-essential (or at least dump it in the junk drawer for a time) and focus on the stuff that will help us survive.

        I’ve been a competitive shooter, and from my training, I know that if I were actually confronted by a bad guy, my brain would lock down on the essentials of surviving. It would filter out noises, my vision would narrow to the target, and my thoughts would focus on the process of getting the round from point A to point B efficiently. (Hope THAT never happens!)

        This little virus has narrowed my circle of wagons like nothing in life so far. What really matters to me? Not money, possessions, or even the creative process. It’s relationships! This little bug has done for an extreme introvert what nothing else could.

        And now that its work here is done, it can leave the way it came, thank you very much.

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        • Our brains, be they right or left, in a crisis, discard the non-essential (or at least dump it in the junk drawer for a time) and focus on the stuff that will help us survive.

          Nailed it, Deb! Yes, I agree. This virus has put a lot of things into perspective for me, too.

          With your marksman skills, I want YOU in my apocalypse bunker. 😉

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  8. My concern is for people who are stuck at home alone. We have a lot of “seniors” in our faith community, and many of them are single. The fellowship of the congregation is important to them. So I started a “Holding Virtual Hands” email loop to keep us all connected. It’s an opportunity for everyone to share scripture, encouragement, special needs, etc. We also keep the members of our congregation who are in the medical community in prayer.
    I don’t know if that falls into the creative category, but it’s one more building block in the stronghold where people can come to be comforted.

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    • Love that idea, Kay! Holding Virtual Hands sounds like a beautiful way to unite your community. I worry about the elderly who live alone, too. My father-in-law is a very active 83-year-old (with a girlfriend in her 50’s). We’ve checked on him so much lately, he says we’re becoming pests. Hahaha. He’ll outlive us all!

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  9. This really resonated with me. I had to talk myself off the ledge, lol, several nights in a row. (That panicky feeling of there’s so much to do that my mind won’t shut down for sleep).

    My daughter is a photographer and was laid off indefinitely Friday. We’re in the middle of figuring out how to move her home from Atlanta and still say within the new rules. My son moved to California to start his new job just as everything shut down last week. He’s still trying to find a place to live and groceries.

    So this mama was stressed!

    Even though my kids are grown, it makes it harder in some ways. How will we afford everything without work? That’s the question that keeps circling my mind.

    Yesterday my daughter and I came up with a new strategy. She’s going to start taking product photos, (Like books, lol, jewelry, all things made at home) while I create a digital marketing plan for each. We’ll offer packages to help authors and creators. We are also creating digital templates for lead magnets.

    I have no idea what will become of it but it got her excited and moved her beyond her own panic and stress. I think that’s using your imagination and making a bad situation better.

    What’s funny is that I woke up from a dead sleep last night, first one in a week, with all that I needed to finish working on the story I’ve started.

    So, it’s a good day for us even with the chaos. It has given us a new perspective and possibly a new business. Who knows?

    I’m very grateful for the advice and friendships here. I always feel more confident after reading the posts. Thank you, Sue! : )

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    • My pleasure, Cindy!

      Wow. You’ve got a lot on your plate. {{{hugs}}} It’s tough, isn’t it? We’re supposed to be the adults, yet “adulting” isn’t easy in our new normal. Just keeping “The Kid” from panicking is exhausting at times. So, believe me, I get it.

      The new biz sounds so exciting! I love that you found a way to turn a negative into a positive. May you have loads of success.

      Stay safe. xo

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  10. Yesterday I went into my back yard—the only place I’m allowed to go outside in L.A.!—and sat and just looked at the clouds for awhile. When was the last time I did that? When I was ten? It was peaceful. And the sky was clear blue. It makes a difference when there are no cars on the freeway.

    I brought a paperback with me…and enjoyed some guilt-free reading.

    And all the while the boys were working in the basement and sent up a great villain for my next book.

    I do advocate strategic breaks from writing. I take one day off a week, which helps me recharge. Also a couple of weeks at the end of the year to assess and plan.

    Well, we have that opportunity now, don’t we?

    Meantime, as a former waiter, I’m really sympathetic with all the out-of-work servers. Find a local restaurant that’s offering take out option and give them some support. I’m very concerned about all the small businesses out there.

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    • Good for you, Jim! I’ve done my share of sitting outside with a book, too. Ah, the clouds…excellent source of inspiration. Tonight we’re expecting 6-12″ of snow, so that activity is off the table for the rest of the week. What happened to spring? My poor chipmunks don’t know what to do. 🙂

      I thought of you when I saw the streets of LA on the local news. Hard to believe it’s the same city.

      A night without cooking? Count me in!

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    • Ditto on the clouds and the paperback.

      But it’s the girls in the basement, JSB, that gave me the idea to interview the dead parents of my MC to find out what exactly happened to their first-born daughter, the sister my MC never knew. Annie has refused to tell me thus far, so I got the message to talk to her parents. Excellent idea! It was hard, but Annie’s mom finally gave me the horrid details.

      Now, I know a little more of why Annie is the way she is.

      I’m having a little fun during this stay-at-home order, as you can see. 🙂

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  11. Thank you all for sharing how you’re handling and what you’re doing during this unique and uncertain time.

    TKZ is what keeps me inspired and motivated. I’m grateful for this writing community. I consider you friends.

    Stay well. Stay safe. Wash your hands. 🙂

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