Using Creativity to Cope During COVID 19

‘Where is the cornflour?’ asked my daughter. ‘In the pantry,’ I replied, thinking she was making something lovely for supper. But then the blow came. ‘I am making edible paints! Where is the food colouring?’ And so it was that on Thursday of last week, in glorious sunshine, my daughter, the baby and the dog sat happily in the backyard and made a mess. The baby showed enormous promise and we shall be sending his work to the Tate. The dog was less talented, but, being a Labrador, did us all a favour by cleaning up afterwards.

For some years I too have been thinking I might paint. I bought all the stuff, as you do, but what I can’t quite bear is how hard you have to work if you want to get any better! The last few days have given me the opportunity to take some time to try. My work is very bad indeed, but in making the attempt I have remembered how good it is to concentrate on something creative. I, like everyone else, have been feeling anxious and unsettled and uncertain of what the future holds, but in trying to mix the perfect eggshell blue for the sky over the Isle of Harris, I found that I was calm and content and not thinking about anything else at all.

Creativity and the concentration that goes with it can improve wellbeing and resilience and can help us to get through even the hardest of times. We at Clayesmore are looking forward very much to the new term and meeting our students online. Some of them will have continued to be creative over the break (and we have seen evidence of their superb art work on Instagram), but others may not have that outlet provided through their work at school. The routine provided by the new term will be good, but students will need to balance their work online with physical activity and even creativity. Some young people will find the self-discipline of academic work online very hard indeed. They need to plan for this and try to find things to do that calm them and that they enjoy, to reward themselves after a hard day’s work.

I recently heard from a family who had realised that they were all spending too much time in separate rooms on their own devices, playing games, looking at Twitter or watching Netflix. They decided to mix it up a bit and have been doing a family Masterchef competition as well as agreeing either to do some art or to do some writing at least every other day. The family said it had made a noticeable difference to everyone’s mood over the last few weeks.

Art and cooking are not for everyone of course. But my family’s experiences in painting last week, however amateur, certainly gave us joy. It was partly the laughter, but also the sense of achievement and the way that creativity can take over the mind and, for the moment, wipe out everything else.

We are looking forward to seeing all the students online next week and I hope they are looking forward to it as well. It will be great to have the community back together for academic work, creativity and friendship.