A month to refill the creative well

Citizen Ink: It takes effort to switch off the cyber distractions

The world is very loud these days. Change is a constant. It pummels us from every direction, and the scale can be almost incomprehensible. Some of it is positive, much of it is potentially negative and the jury is out on the rest.

The details are often not just depressing, but increasingly alarming.

Innovation must be weighed against unintended consequences. Politics, the state of the environment, social issues, intolerance, and technology all require analysis that seems beyond the capacity of the average person. It’s a feat simply to identify reliable sources of information.

At the turn of the 20th century, human knowledge doubled about every century.

My great grandparents –and their parents and grandparents – dealt with change, but the rate was infinitely slower than anything in living memory.

By the time the baby boomer generation was born, human knowledge was doubling every 25 years and it has only picked up the pace from there.

By the year 2000, it was estimated knowledge doubled on a yearly basis. Today, some claim we are looking a months, weeks and even days for each doubling of knowledge.

Trying to grasp the scale, much less the implications, is dizzying.

Political and economic lines are redrawn and increasingly complex issues are over-simplified.

Paying attention can cause great angst, but can we afford to look away?

Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux refers to anxiety as “the price we pay for an ability to imagine the future.”

This is particularly true for creative people.

Increasingly, I find it difficult to focus when writing. Therefore, this summer I’m exploring strategies to find balance.

Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way, “I needed small, concrete actions in the life that I actually have, not in the terrible life that I imagine as coming toward me.”

I asked several local artists about their strategies.

Author and environmentalist Annette LeBox, points to creativity expert, David Usher, who advises ‘mess up your patterns.’

LeBox says, “Filling the well, for me, means switching up different modes of creativity.

“Presently, I’m a member of the Downtown East Side Writers Collective and I’m helping to edit an anthology of their writing. I also take breaks to spend time in nature, read, and socialize.”

Painter, Diane Speirs, likes to connect with nature. “I love painting outside in the sunshine on my deck. I set up on the large table, put my music on and just enjoy being outside.”

Whonnock author, Cathy Ace, works in her garden.

“I find that gardening helps me recharge, because I can allow my mind to wander freely. I’m always plotting as I plant! I’m running the shape of my next book through my head as I plan where to put another maple, just as I’m thinking through how various characters would act and react in certain circumstances. And there’s the wonderful outcome of a beautiful garden to look out at when I finally sit at my desk to write.”

Painter, April Lacheur, likes to experiment with new materials.

“To refill the creative well, I enter into creative play time with no expectations of outcome and instead enjoy the process of exploring something new.”

For the month of August, I plan to unplug from news and social media for several days at a time. I will allow myself a daily dose of the headlines, but only plan to read further if a news item appears to directly impact my life. It will be a much-needed summer vacation from the onslaught. I’ll try not to worry about what I’m missing.

Things will slip by.

For example, if I’d taken a break in July I might not have noticed and completed the provincial government’s public consultation survey around recycling policies.

For August, I plan to immerse myself in nature and the creative output of others – books, music, art and gardens.

Come September, we’ll be deep in the choppy waters of a federal election, and no doubt, countless other issues that require our attention.

In the meantime, I have a well that needs filling.

Katherine Wagner is a member of the citizen’s task force on transparency, a former school trustee and members of Golden Ears Writers.

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