Oh, man. All the memes about how Shakespeare wrote Julius Caesar and likely Macbeth during the Black Plague. Talk about pressure!
I don't know about you but for the first three months of the pandemic I could not read or write for any sustained amount of time. And by sustained I mean more than three minutes. Three minutes is not long enough to fuel a career as a writing coach, college essay coach, English teacher or library media specialist. I confronted for the first time in my life an inability to access the world through the language that I know and navigate best. It was a full blown identity crisis. Who am I if not a purveyor of words?
There's a very sound, proven biological reason for this phenomenon called allostatic load. Allostatic load is "the wear and tear on the body" which accumulates as an individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress. And guess what? When we experience it, as in a pandemic that lasts for months, our brains stop working correctly and stay stuck in reactive mode. You know what follows: inattention, brain fog, lethargy, insomnia. Systems out of whack. Mind unclear. Purpose derailed.
If you're like me, you've probably been struggling with allostatic load this year. The regular advice applies: rest, eat well, get regular exercise, get off social media, get out in nature, and make some real connections. Easier than it sounds. I have no evidence other than the personal to back this up, but I think the reactive non-productivity of allostatic stress is particularly difficult for creatives.
In some ways, for some of us, the pandemic has created a set of conditions typically ripe for practicing our craft. Isolation, fewer distractions, lots of silence, more free time. For others, it's the anti-thesis of what is needed. Cabin fever and a crowded house of needy others, too many distractions including constant noise, and twice as much work taking up more free time than ever before.
As always, recognizing that none of this is normal helps. So does being more forgiving to yourself and others, wherever you find yourself on that spectrum from Shakespeare to sloth. I don't know if it was luck or if the summer sun and getting outside constantly made the difference for me, but around July I started reading again. Then in September I started writing again. I just finished my book, The Tiny Book of Writing Happily: Restoring Joy to Your Writing Practice, now in the editing stages. The ship has been righted.
“Creative people see stressors more as challenges that they can work to
overcome rather than as stressful obstacles they can't overcome.” - Journal
of Aging and Health
“Creative activities are positive for mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Practicing creative-thinking techniques lower stress and exercise the brain.” American Journal of Public Health
If you're not there yet, be gentle. Be kind. Tell that inner voice nagging at you to find a different audience. You have no energy to give attention to that.
No matter what the outside forces are telling us, this is NOT normal. Not even close. All you have to do is what you can do. You are enough. It is enough.