In The 50 Things To Do In A Crisis

“Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment.
It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.”

Bruce Garrabrandt

Creativity is defined as “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something”; in other words, inventiveness.

And there’s another expression that comes into its own here, as well: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

And in these dark days when we are all self-isolating and social distancing and frankly, living out a scenario that looks like the beginning of an indy apocalypse movie, it’s important to recognise that the solutions to all the problems we are currently facing WILL be found. They will. They always have and they always will. Actually, they already exist in the physical universe, we just haven’t found them yet.

In an interview, JK Rowling once said that the idea for “Harry Potter” came to her fully formed and entire during a train journey from London to Scotland. Or it may have been the other way around. But the point is that during a period of extended (and to some extent, enforced) immobility, she either received an idea from the ether or she hatched it herself. The mechanics of that bit are unimportant. The important part is that she sat still and let her imagination play. While the scenery whizzed past the window she wove a rich fabric that has changed our world.

And if JK Rowling can do it, so can you.

Many people at this time are going to tire of daytime TV. That’s completely understandable. And those people who have small children are going to be especially challenged to keep them safe and harmlessly occupied during their waking hours until normal life can resume in some form. Lack of space is going to be a challenge, as well as lack of resources.

I have just seen a post on social media from a friend of mine who lives in a square of Victorian houses in East London. My friend Amanda and all her neighbours have just done their morning fitness routine, all standing on their doorsteps and using tins of food as weights, while their trainer (another neighbour) stands in the middle of the square and shouts instructions. How creative is that? It’s a really wonderful solution to several problems not the least of which are lack of exercise and loneliness. I suspect, also, that an extraordinary and uplifting feeling of community is being created which might never have had the chance to exist without these unprecedented circumstances.

Another friend Tim, who lives in Brecon has just proposed that we hold an online pub quiz next Wednesday evening. There will be five teams from all over the UK and we will play in an online meeting platform. It will be hilariously entertaining. Alcohol may be involved, I’m not sure. The details are still being worked out. But what is known already is that we will experience fellowship and laughter together. We will share bonhomie and a feeling of belonging. We just won’t be able to hug one another.

The point is that, actually, we are blessed. Of course these are scary times. People are frightened and that is completely understandable, and I’m not dismissing how tough it will be for those of us whose children are off school and stuck in a small flat with no outdoor space. But we are blessed because this is happening to us in the digital age. We may be shut indoors and unable to see one another, but we have access to information, to entertainment, to shops (if not toilet paper), to books, to university lectures, and most importantly of all, to one another, all through digital technology. We can take a dystopian view if we wish (and why not when, frankly, it’s so easy and requires almost no imagination) or we can decide that it’s fun to make the best of things. We can

choose to overcome our circumstances rather than be defined or, worse still, defeated by them, and we can use creativity to achieve that.

In America my friends Tom and Kaycee have set up a school room for their two girls. Yesterday was Fancy Dress Day. While I realise that having to constantly come up with ideas for entertaining the kids is going to be draining at times, I also wonder if these children might not look back upon these days at home with their parents as some of the best days of their childhoods. Far too many of us live our lives on the hoof, constantly running from pillar to post, from home to work and back again, dropping off the kids, running to the supermarket, collecting the kids, home for a quick supper and another load of laundry before repeating it all again the next day. Week after week. Maybe the universal pause button (as I now prefer to call the global coronavirus pandemic) is giving us all a chance to re-connect with what is important in our lives. Maybe once we reconnect with our own innate creativity we will remember that we are supposed to work in order to live and not the other way around.

A fact which never ceases to amaze and fascinate me is that the First World War was a period of remarkable creativity. More outstanding poets came to the fore in that period than at any time in history since the Elizabethan age. On the brink of survival, at a point when an existential crisis would be more than justified, remarkable writers dug deep into their souls and reminded us that love is paramount. Is it not possible then that in these modern times, dark though the days can be, our shared adversity, constraint and hardship will all serve us if we will let them. Forced to find alternatives to the mainstream and straightforward roads through life, somehow we will create new paths and make new adventures which, in normal circumstances, we might have missed.

So take a deep breath, fall still for a second, and dare to be creative. You will amaze yourself.

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