ESSAY: CAPTURING CREATIVITY
PHOTOGRAPH BY AERAN SQUIRES
ESSAY BY KATE WEINER
I’m writing this from my childhood home in New York. The sublime fall days—crisp and cool and latticed in honey gold light—have filled my heart to the brim. I have wrestled, however, with stagnancy and sadness in the wake of a toxic few weeks. Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The latest IPCC report. Integrating these revelations and unravelings has meant giving myself the space to grieve, to rage, to rest.
We don’t choose when we live and what fights we will have to fight for our future. Although I know my anger is a righteous rage—because I sure as hell wish climate change wasn’t the reality of my generation— it doesn’t move me toward action. Walking through this world during a time of such potent pain, I feel as if I’m being called into deeper commitment to stewardship. And as I reflect on what to do with the sleepiness pooling in my limbs and the sorrow weaving through my blood, I have had to remind myself—again and again—that my fiery creative energy is my gift to give to this world. If I want to be of service to the maple trees and coral reefs, to the children in my current community and to the children I desperately want to bring into being, I have to claim my power as a creative.
Because creativity is an antidote to the capitalist patriarchal colonial machine. When we create worlds—through the gardens we grow and the rallies we walk in and the love we seed—we affirm our role as regenerators. We transform our despair into the kindling to spark social change and nourish ecological restoration. We make the world richer by making connections and communities that matter.
Like so many of you, I haven’t really known what to do with myself these last few weeks. Working through my frustration has meant aggressive afternoon walks listening to moody music and evenings curled up in bed before 9. I’ve been wearing my cozy slippers and sipping on mulled cider and watching escapist telenovelas because I want to feel soft and safe.
As I settle into my brief visit home, however, I’m reminded that fallowness is fertile soil for creative energy. When I am feeling truly held—as I do now thanks to the generosity of my mama and papa—I feel a surge in creative energy. Savoring their support affirms for me that I want my work as a creative to do the same for others. I want to alchemize the toxic energy coursing through our current culture into love. I want to build spaces and braid together stories that empower us to create the world we want because this is the lifetime we are living through and it’s precious and potent and ripe for revolution.
It’s in that spirit that I want to share six practices to nurture creativity that have helped heal me the last few weeks. My hope is that these steps will inspire you to create your own rituals and remedies to resource as you navigate creative living in the heart of climate change.
I recognize the contradictions in this practice. Loam Love is digital! My hope, however, in creating Loam Love was to use this accessible medium to inspire embodied experience. Technology can be a tool for community building and co-creation as well as an instrument of escapism and oppression. It’s our responsibility, then, to bring mindfulness into our relationships with screens.
Extensive screen time sucks us of our creative juices. On days when I spend too much time scrolling through screens, I feel a little less human. I pretty much have to run naked into the moon bright night and sink my hands into the soil to restore balance, and man, it’s getting too cold to streak at night!
Inspired by my conversation with Kyle Lemle and brontë velez of Lead to Life from last month’s missive, I now open and close every screen session with gratitude. I give thanks for the precious resources that have made my capacity to connect to the Loam community possible and honor every hand that has mined for and made this machine. I’m strict on checking Instagram twice a day and take digital detoxes most weekends. Although time on my computer is a requisite for work, I strive to check every e-mail and wrap up every project within the span of a few hours at my favorite cafe. Since creating this structure for myself, my creative energy has blossomed. I’m not absentmindedly scrolling through social media and I’m not answering e-mails when I’m bored. I’m making shockingly shitty ceramics and cooking up nourishing meals and taking contemplative walks through the community garden close to my home. Some of what I creates sucks (read: shockingly shitty ceramics) and some of what I create is sublime but none of it really matters. What does is that I am showing up, however imperfectly, for creativity by minimizing digital distractions from my life.
I totally get the impulse to dive into the safety of screens when we are faced with significant strife. I spent a weekend earlier this summer nursing my heartbreak by powering through the fourth season of “Jane the Virgin” curled up on the cot on my apartment balcony. It was not a good look. And although it was what I needed to do then—sometimes you just have to be an utterly unproductive tangle of raw nerves—I want us as a community to fight against always defaulting to the digital by bringing mindfulness to life in our relationship to and reliance on technology. What would a healthy relationship to social media and screens mean for you? And how can you begin to reimagine your relationship to technology to create the space for creative energy to bloom?
WALK IN THE WILD
One of the most powerful tools for stoking our brainy bodacious creative energy is walking through the wild that lives within and around us. When you are walking through a space that feels sacred and full of life—from a sun-dappled city street to a birch forest kissed in gold autumn light—you are giving your creativity breathing room. Make time today for an aimless walk through your neighborhood. As you meander, take note of the fauna, flora, minerals, and mosses that shape your space. And as always, give thanks for everything growing.
GROW WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED
There is so much magic right where we are. For much of my life, creativity stemmed from travel. And although I still relish in new places and perspectives, I am also striving to find the wilderness and wonder where I live. How can I walk the same route to work everyday and continue to notice new growth? How can I create adventure within five miles of my home? How can I deepen my connection to my social and ecological communities through showing up everyday for what is?
To grow where you are planted is both a practice in working with where you are and what you have and an opportunity to shrink your carbon footprint. Not all of us are fortunate to have access to good public transportation and some of us need a car to navigate the region we live in. I think as much as you can, however, it’s good to walk your block, to be in dynamic conversation with the black-capped chickadees fluttering past and the grass growing between cracks in the concrete.
Cultivating practices to help us grow where we are planted is unique to the cultures we are a part of and to the climates that we live in. You might find that growing where you are planted means joining a community organization, volunteering for a local food bank, or taking a “staycation.” Look at where you live with fresh eyes, however, and you will always find creative possibility.
DEEP SLEEP & GOOD FOOD
Nourishing our bodies is radical and regenerative work in our current sociopolitical context. Our capacity for creative energy is braided into the fibers of our being. To be creative, you truly need to take good care of yourself and that means carving out the space to sleep, rest, drink water, and savor healing food.
I love that Lin-Manuel Miranda created the epic hip-hop musical “Hamilton” after reading a history book on the Founding Father. His story is a beautiful reminder that creativity blooms when we make ourselves receptive to the unexpected. In “Big Magic,” writer Elizabeth Gilbert shares a similar story of working through creative stagnation by nurturing a new interest in gardening that with time shapes the vision for a sprawling novel on 19th century botanical explorers. The seeds for creativity are truly germinating in everything and everyone.
In the face of climate change, fostering creativity is essential. We need to balance our grief for the unraveling surrounding us with a joyful commitment to creating new worlds. For me, immersing myself in new experiences is potent practice for creating the world I want. Each time that I am intentional in choosing to experience something unfamiliar—be it learning how to identify wild foods or taking a sunrise hike through my hometown—I feel as if I’m affirming my ability to seed the kind of succulent and sustainable future that I want our world to grow into. Passionate about textiles? Try your hand at looming. Hungry to cook? Make homemade truffles studded with seasonal goodies. Eager to get outside? Take a full moon walk in the fall chill. There are so many ways to work your creative muscle and you, sweet one, will always have the power to bring these practices into being.
Exploring diverse experiences is easy enough to do. And that’s the beauty of it. “New” doesn’t need to mean trekking to New Zealand to backpack through blue-gold mountains. “New” can mean checking out a book on mycology from the library because you think mushrooms are cool. It can mean taking a moonlit walk in the cold night and watching the stars from the warmth of a big blanket. It can mean choosing to create a single mandala each autumn afternoon from fallen leaves you’ve found on your work from the bus stop to home. Be open to new experiences in your life—to new books, new neighborhoods, new loves—and you’ll find that creativity will surge strong.
The capitalist machine would sure as hell like us to consume rather than create. Our submission to their system is what helps sustain the fossil fuel plutocracy. And so when we position ourselves as creators—as regenerators, really—we not only nurture our own spirits, we uplift those of the non-human beings whose lives have been threatened by capitalism as well.
Embracing our role as creators, however, is difficult. It can be scary to create in the face of ecological devastation and social strife. It can be destabilizing to own our inherent creativity when so much of mainstream culture is designed to suffocate our intrinsic impulses to rebel, reawaken, revitalize, reimagine. And if you are anything like me, it can make you worry you’re ego tripping to consider yourself a creative. Even though I love love love to create, I’m not immune from questioning my right to. Who am I to make? Is my work really of service?
Facing your fears means embracing your imperfections. You don’t have to be a particularly good potter to find happiness in making ceramics. You don’t have to have an MFA in creative writing to want to will your words onto the page. You can grow things, try things, seed things, and explore new things without being “skilled” at it. I think that so many of us suffocate our creative impulse because we worry there’s no “worth” in doing something if we are going to be only okay at it. And although I’m pretty sure our world doesn’t need any more of my misshapen pots cluttering bookshelves, our world DOES need the me that believes cultivating the conditions for my creative liberation helps me be of service to creative liberation in my community.
If you are afraid to create, choose to be in conversation with your fear. What’s at the heart of your anxiety? Who loves you that can help you navigate this space? Our world is scary and the future is uncertain. It’s our responsibility as stewards to respond to that fear by alchemizing our suffering into creative and compassionate living.
How do you cultivate the conditions for creativity in your life? Share practices that inspire you in the comments!
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