Although I would never say this worldwide pandemic has been a blessing in any sense, many people have discovered that running at a snail’s pace has its perks.
The question is, even though you may be on the verge of returning to work or to a busy social schedule, will you be able to still keep a nugget of slow rhythm in part of your day? As we begin to look outward to the possibility of work and family and friends and travel –all the buzz that was Life-Before-Covid– can you choose to sanctify a 20-minute chunk of time each day to continue your Humble Creative Habit?
So many of us never have had the willpower to practice sitting meditation. We got fidgety. We never had time to take the twelve-week art class. Besides, it was too expensive or we were too self-conscious.
But then in March or April 2020, when we had nothing better to do and were a bit restless as well, we pulled out that dusty half-filled sketchbook from 1997, opened it up, and made a mark on the next empty page.
The mark read: “A New Beginning: April 2020”
Carrying the sketchbook and pencil under our arm, we then walked into the kitchen, picked up that tomato, onion, cutting board, and the old paring knife that Mom always used, walked back to the dining room, plopped them on the table, and started to stare.
First we noticed the bright reflections on the tomato, created by the sunlight from the window. Then we noticed the deep dark shadows cast on the table beside the two vegetables. That shadow made the base of the tomato and onion almost indistinguishable from the table itself. We gazed at big shapes, no details.
Then the pen found its way into our hand, and we were amazed at the trail it left behind on the paper, as two eyes and a hand figure-skated together over each nook and cranny. We smiled, thinking how curious it is that this talented pen is the very same one we had used to create the grocery list that reminded us to buy those exact vegetables.
Then suddenly we notice we are almost bored, so we stop, and look at what we have done. We are not all that impressed, yet we are somehow more contented than we were before we began. Then if we are very brave, we gather up our still life, walk back to the kitchen, take that knife and make a sacrificial offering of that lovely tomato and onion, letting them transform into food for bodily nourishment as well as food for thought.
Developing Loyalty to Nourishing Habits
Your Humble Creative Habit, if you choose to sustain it, can easily become your favorite low-maintenance friend, always there, demanding nothing, giving you something to instinctively miss when you have been apart for too long.
When sketching, you can take a deep breath about 10 minutes in, and it feels just like a hug. During that Breath-Break I stretch a little, look around at my surroundings, come up for air, literally, before I dive back in for one last go at the page. It is easy to know when I am done—it is when I am no longer spell-bound. Even if the sketch isn’t done, I am. And since it’s my sketchbook, my meditation, who cares? It served its purpose.
I don’t have any local friends who really ‘get’ what I do, and that’s fine because I have intimate friends in faraway lands who have the exact same artistic-DNA that I have. We are Sketchbook Siblings, Creative Cousins, who upon our very first meeting exclaimed, “Wow, how have you been?” as if we were old buddies. There is a recognition among tribe members.
I have taken my very portable art-toolkit for a walk a few times recently, and after sketching the most mundane objects (like a stone wall, a fire hydrant, and a café patio), I felt reenergized in a way that is hard to describe.
Taking the time to sketch daily feels like an odd sort of victory lap.
With endless unanswered emails, bills to pay, vacuuming to be done, and dirty dishes in the sink, it is an act of rebellion and integrity to say,
“No, first things first. I need to go look at something.”
And when you return from your artistic trance, you are better for it. The world is better for it. Look at that!