The past few years have been challenging on many levels. Political unrest, environmental/weather-related upheaval, racism/hatred, terrorism, and other horrible things dominate the news cycles. And this is just the big, global stuff. Don’t forget the challenges you face every single day in your own life. Sick relatives, financial struggles, work-related foolishness, etc. all make just getting out of bed every day a challenge. But today I’m going to give you a secret way to deal with all of the crap life flings at you: Create something.
I’m not just speaking to writers here, although getting lost in your words is a great antidote to the miseries of life. I’m speaking to every single person. Even if you don’t believe you are a “creator of things.”
The act of creating stuff is helpful in so many ways, and it’s far better for everyone than the other “antidote” to problems, which is usually some form of consumption. When the going gets tough, people go shopping. (Or consume booze or pills, which is definitely not helpful.) But that’s not really an answer. It usually ends badly, either in the form of crap you don’t want cluttering your house, credit card bills, or just simple wasting of resources.
Creation is a better alternative and it’s open to everyone. You don’t have to spend much (if any) money to create awesome stuff. Most people already have tools like a computer or cellphone that can be used for photography, writing, or graphic design. Found materials, paper and pen, free software (the open source movement is amazing these days), and maybe a basic internet connection if you want to post stuff online. That’s all you really need. Of course, you can spend a ton on supplies, but it isn’t necessary. Some of the best stuff can be found for free or at thrift stores. What you do with it is entirely up to you.
And why is creating stuff the antidote to (almost) everything? There are plenty of reasons, but most come under three broad categories.
Crafting, writing, taking pictures, making a podcast, building Lego creations… Whatever your thing is, it probably reduces stress while you’re doing it. (Just don’t watch the news while you’re creating. Put on some music or funny movies in the background.) Making stuff takes your mind off of the world’s crap for a little while, giving you time and space to just be. If you do your creating as part of a group, the social interaction helps, too. (As long as you don’t talk about politics and other misery. Leave it be and stick to fun stuff.) Creating stuff is also empowering. You get to say what it looks like, what it’s made of, how big it is, etc. It can give you some agency in a world where much feels (and is) completely out of our control.
It may also help with other conditions like depression and anxiety. These can be fueled by all the bad news in the world, so the simple act of turning it off and engaging with something positive can reduce symptoms. It’s not a cure, but it may help.
It fills the world with beauty.
The world needs more beauty these days and art, however you define it, can make the world a prettier place. There is so much ugliness out there that anything pretty can help. Even if it just puts you in a better mood, that makes your slice of the world a little more beautiful. And it doesn’t have to be big to be beautiful. A group in my town has been painting rocks and leaving them around for people to find. It’s simple, but it makes things a little prettier. Anything, whether it’s a garden, a painting, a mural, a piece of jewelry, or a simple sketch on a napkin left for your waiter to find can make the world a more beautiful place. Even if only a tiny bit. We need that little bit of beauty to offset the ick that threatens to drown us all.
Your creation gives others a break from their misery.
When you’re feeling low, what do you reach for? (Hopefully not booze or drugs.) You likely reach for some form of art. It may be a movie or TV show, a book or comic strip, a video game, a song, a podcast, or a trip to a museum. All of these things were created by someone else. They got the benefits of making the thing, and you get a break from your misery because of it. Creating stuff always comes full circle. You make it, someone else appreciates it. That’s the beauty of it. Your creation can be the antidote to someone else’s misery. Pretty empowering stuff, right?
Don’t worry if you feel like your creations aren’t up to snuff. Everyone feels like that. Even if your first efforts aren’t gallery-worthy, you’ll still get the benefit of reducing your stress and finding some peace away from the daily crap. Eventually, you’ll be creating stuff that others will enjoy. And that will make the world an ever-so-slightly better place.
The world needs creators more than ever. We seem to be in a downward spiral of destruction, so make a commitment to creating something. You’ll do yourself some good, and probably make other’s lives a little bit better as well.
(Photo courtesy of ShonEjai)