2020, what a strange, special year it was. If given the choice, I would immediately request for 2020 to be skipped, given the amount of pain and sadness it brought to the world. However, for me, there was a silver lining. A quiet big one in fact. This post will be more personal than some visitors of this blog may be used to, but as many of you by now will have discovered: this blog exists because I like doing it. I’m its main audience and if others like what’s happening here, they are free to come and visit.
Last week I was going through my blog posts of 2020 and it confirmed what I was feeling and telling my peers for quite some time now: 2020 was a year in which I let some of my creative inhibitions go and simply did what I wanted to try. I (re)discovered that doing nothing because you’re afraid of failing, will never result in anything, it will only make you sad and keep you awake at night thinking “what if I did …”? I learned to be less self-critical again, which had the interesting result that what I did actually became better (at least in my perception).
2020 helped me to gag that nagging, pesky little creature we all have living inside ourself. That silly bugger that comes crawling out of the depths of your consciousness when you’re creating things and starts whispering in your ear things like “stop, this is useless” and “wow, didn’t know you were that bad!”.
I got my “spark” actually already a few months before this nasty year began when I learned to paint miniatures and discovered that I really liked it and that my results weren’t half as bad as I always thought they would be. I think part of the process was showing what I was doing, instead of being afraid/ashamed of it. I’ve been painting ever since, and keep discovering new techniques on how to improve. “ever since”. When talking about a period of about 14 months might be a tad strange to say, but given my attention span for “the old”, having an interest this long is quite a feat on my behalf.
However, painting was only a catalyst, as I soon discovered.
Apparently, I needed a global pandemic to remove my creative inhibitions. Or perhaps it gave me time to reflect? Whatever it was, it happened exactly at the right moment.
At the end of 2019, I was sort of in a lull professionally: I felt like I was an old record, endlessly repeating itself and couldn’t really find joy in teaching and the things surrounding it. No, actually, the teaching itself gave me pleasure, but nothing surrounding it did. This sounds a bit dramatic, it wasn’t that bad, but in hindsight, I did go through a less cheerful period. Painting at that time definitely helped: it was almost therapeutic and helped feed my creative brain which had dried out. It seemed like that creative spark got a bit lost at work and that’s why I didn’t enjoy work so much. It became work…ugh. It happened slowly and without me being aware of it.
But then…suddenly the world changed. Corona broke free, and we were forced to “stay at home”, change the way we lived and work. It almost felt like a soft reboot of life and I embraced that opportunity. I deliberately slowed time. It was the first time ever that I was able to simple sit on my porch and stare out, enjoying the sun on my face and the smells of the nearby trees. I wasn’t restless. I didn’t feel like I was losing valuable time. In fact, by deliberately being lazy from time to time during the lockdown, I felt more energized, recharged.
What a blessing for me those lockdowns were: I was forced to reinvent the way I teach, I could learn new technologies to help me teach remotely. I spent more time creating “entertainment” for the kids (and myself) and have some very fond memories of things we did as a family and with friends (online).
Less became more. Cliché, but true. My life felt more “pure” as if ‘the fat’ was cut off and the only things left were those that really mattered. No more useless meetings. Social contacts were reduced to shorter, but more intense “talks on the porch”. No anxiety because of stuffed calendars, or the opposite. Etc.
During the lockdown in April and May, I felt re-energized. I worked feverishly until late at night on things that I always dreamed of doing but always postponed. I got way less sleep, but I never felt tired, probably because “I was able to pause life” during the day from time to time.
In a matter of weeks, I created things and let my creative juices spill over everywhere (which sounds rather nasty if you write it down like that), and I haven’t stopped doing that ever since.
I learned to use Adobe Premiere to create movies for work and the kids. I created my first paperback course on amazon and am now in the process of writing the second part. I’ve been creating HeroQuest-missions and other games for the kids. I’ve helped create a monster for a horror-movie (no spoilers, but I’ll blog about it in a few months…Check out a small teaser at the end of this post). I’ve been teaching people how to teach online. I’ve been painting, writing, programming, recording, etc. I (co-)created several online streaming events for work. And recently I’ve started experimenting with podcasting (baby steps).
I’m forgetting many things probably, but these are just the highlights I remember. Highlights from a year in which the world felt pain and misery, but in which I relearned some valuable things of myself which I already knew but apparently forgot in the rat race of life.
I now know that when I feel a bit down (whatever the reason) I simply have to push the pause button, take some deep breaths and create things that are itching at the back of my mind. In fact, I’m pretty sure this goes the other way as well: not only does this help me when I’m a bit down, I also get down if I don’t “pause – and – create”.
Let’s see what 2021 brings!