In these last days of a seemingly horrific year, I sit in reflection setting my intentions for the ultimate “reset” — the new year. The current global narrative sends the message that we are to hope for a better year ahead, a ‘reset’ to brush away all the disappointment of “a year lost”. But what if it isn’t a reset we need, and rather a reframe?
As a creative, I look back with clarity on 2020 as the year that awakened my dormant creative super strengths. It was a transformative year. Amongst all the anxiety I was gifted a new understanding of the impact that my creative contributions can make. Certainly, this doesn’t sound like a year “lost”. Then what? How did such a dark year become a creative gift?
This shift from ‘lost’ to ‘found’ occurred only when I rejected the spoken limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I reframed them as creative constraints. These alternative creative guidelines gave entry to unknown and rich territories.
Each year on the 31st of December I take a look at my previous year’s journal to review the hopes and intentions that were made. At the end of 2019, I was beaming from a year of professional achievements. 2020 was meant to focus on the mind-body connection and better eating habits to power the advancing brain and the aging body. Sounds great, doesn’t it? If only!
The success of 2019 had positioned me for positive growth and shifts in my career. I was prepared to extend my work as a creative educator to new audiences and begin speaking publicly on creativity and imagination capacity. With so much in front of me, my strategy felt secure and exciting. And it was!
January 2020 began with inspiring collaborations and the anticipation of a robust year of back-to-back projects. But before things got too hectic, my husband and I took a trip to Venice in February. We had no idea it would be the last time we traveled outside of the country for the rest of the year.
Just a few short weeks after our trip to Venice the world changed overnight. The COVID-19 virus had reared its ugly head, and in no time it grew into the coronavirus pandemic. Soon, the strategies that took years for many of us to build began to fall apart. Nothing in the world was secure anymore. The year’s excitement was replaced with disappointment as in-person projects, events, and travel plans were canceled one by one.
The year as I had planned it could no longer exist. It would not become the reality it was supposed to be. And as disappointing as this was, I knew deep down that there was still so much that it could be.
As an educator of creative methodologies, I teach my students about the capacities of our imagination. And for this reason, I know from experience that our imaginations have the power to create new realities so that new plans can unfold. In other words, in the midst of a world of “no!”, I was going to find a “yes!”. I would call upon my imagination to develop another reality.
Gradually I chose to look at the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the labeled ”new normal” (although there was surely nothing normal about it), as creative constraints. Limitations were reframed as guidelines that would prompt the imagination to open unused channels for incoming inspiration, motivation, and meaningful work.
First, I used the creative constraints of forced time isolated at home into a setting for more quality writing time. As a writer and introvert, you can imagine this was especially satisfying for me. I found new avenues to share my creative experiences and knowledge with people outside of my usual classrooms. I was able to spend sufficient blocks of uninterrupted pen time on the book I am developing. I also began publishing regularly to my blog and started sharing my creative process in daily posts on Instagram. My writing shifted from an after-hours activity to a central focus.
Next, the limitations of no in-person collaborative workshops were reframed as opportunities to enter unexplored classroom territories. I tried on fresh approaches to my current online classrooms, and my creative process for course development was ignited. A door opened for me to present my insights and methods for pedagogy innovation to faculty professors. I also generated a creative toolbox for scientists confined at home away from their research labs.
In truth, in the middle of a global crisis, I was experiencing the height of creativity. I wanted to share as much of it as I possibly could with others. This creative momentum turned my year of disappointment into a renewed year of excitement.
But it was not only about the activation of underutilized creative channels, it was also about reframing my position as a creative contributor and community participant.
Before the coronavirus crisis, I had been framing myself solely as an educator of creative methodologies. This narrow view of myself was restricting my creative contributions to a classroom setting, and, therefore, limiting my position as a creative contributor in my community. While exploring new frames for my creativity, I uncovered new possibilities as a creative contributor and world participant.
As a collective global community we can look back together on the most unexpected turn of events in 2020, that which over time revealed itself as a mental shift and a deeper understanding of our participation in this world.
The situation demanded that we look inward, and pushed us to uncover new meaning. Both in our self-fulfillment and, more importantly, in how we contribute to the world around us. Individually, we were forced to investigate personal challenges, uncover our truths, and learn what matters most; what we want to protect and what we want to grow.
We answered for ourselves the question, “Where am I most needed?” And while answering that question we uncovered our own superpowers. Like the man who always wanted to be a better father, who began fathering as he worked from home. Or the woman who wanted to empower others suddenly had more access to reach people online. The contributions we have made during this past year matter more than ever. The roles you have connected with have made a difference. The leader. The teacher. The doctor. The civilian. The neighbor. The friend.
The beauty in reconnecting with your superpowers is that as you put them to use the stronger they grow.
I experienced a reconnection with my creative superpowers during this crazy year. I unlocked my creative super strengths by inviting others into my creative practice. And in doing so I inspired people during a time of anxiety. My perspective on how I perceived my contributions as a creative individual began to shift.
I tried out new methods and unfamiliar tools and mediums, and at every turn, I was unlocking creative strength. My curiosity was satiated. The world became brighter. Appreciation for the small moments and nature, and what was in front of me…there, directly in front of me…not a plan. Things became clear. Our participation matters.
As I continued to explain emotions through my making, as I proposed questions, and shared with others…the result was a new UNDERSTANDING. I made sense of my anxiety. I revealed hidden beauty. I remembered and honoured legendary creatives.
This is the new normal.
For years we have been striving for understanding; an understanding of how we fit with others and the world, or the universe. To be understood and seen. To connect again.
By unwanted force, we have been given the chance. So take it.
It wasn’t the year any of us anticipated, or strategized for, or hoped would happen. But we will walk away from this somewhat hideous year transformed in ways that never could have happened without the creative constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you, covid.
As we turn the page on 2020 and make our intentions for 2021, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on this last year and how you faced the change, how you dealt with loss and disappointment, and ultimately how the shift transformed you and brought you new meaning. And think, as a member of this world community, how did your participation transform those around you? Can you do more of that in 2021?
The imagination can create new stories and realities. Your superpowers will support you as you bring these new narratives to life…and will eventually help lift us all!