Until today, the most recent photo on my instagram account was of a book hanging out near some jazzy tulips in my yard. As it’s February in Chicago… it’s clearly been a while since I posted that. Bookstagramming, reading, writing, and any other form of creativity (let’s also lump “feeling joy at all that didn’t come from a pint of Jeni’s Brambleberry Crisp” in there as well) all disappeared for me this winter. Or at least they hibernated somewhere very deep and inaccessible.
I know I’m not alone in this. So many people, creatives and non-creatives alike, have suffered from languishing, malaise, depression—whatever we feel like calling it—throughout the pandemic, but especially during this second winter of isolation and amplified anxiety. When we write or read, we feel what characters are feeling; it’s what makes the experience so thrilling. But I’m spent, emotionally, like so many others, so the thought of consuming or transmitting more emotions… does not appeal. It’s why I’ve re-binged every episode of Great British Bake-Off this winter. No feelings. Just CAKE.
With spring (ostensibly) around the corner, there’s the promise of pandemic restrictions and fears easing up again, and possibly a lifting of emotional burdens, opening us up to be those lightning rods for creativity again. But after two years of near-emptiness, how do we come back from that? How do we return to the activities we once loved, when our dusty insides have been closed off from them for so long?
Paralysis has been my response to that question. To-be-read piles towering ever closer to the ceiling, unvisited Word documents, cobwebbed social media feeds. Can’t do it. Won’t do it.
But I recently read Mike Schur’s new book, How to Be Perfect, which is a highly accessible guide to basic moral philosophy, brought to you by the creator of The Good Place. One of my favorite messages from this book is the idea that we will constantly fail at being morally “perfect,” but we have to try because even though no one will ever get there, that the point of perfection does not exist, trying gets us closer. Closer to the idea of the person we want to be in society, closer to the other humans ambling around beside us, closer to ourselves.
Try, and fail, and try again, and fail better.
So I am writing this post to try, to actively do, and to fail myself a little closer toward creativity again.