IN EARLIER DAYS of COVID, I wrote about returning to your instincts as a way to cope with the stress of such an unprecedented time. I wasn’t thinking of it in exactly that way when first it happened to me. I just did what came naturally when reduced to a more elemental existence. In isolation, feeling fearful and uncertain, and with so much stripped away—I made a turn toward making.
A wonderful thing happened. My feet came back in contact with the ground. My heart slowed. And amid the chaos, I found small moments of grace in using my hands as a conduit, of sorts, to create, to express, to release.
I’m writing about this now because it was that experience, unexpected as it was, that became the impetus for my dream of encouraging others to make. The world needs artists and singers and stitchers and chefs, gardeners and carpenters and poets. Dipping into your soul and sharing a bit of what’s there is a brave, generous act, and I believe the world has never been hungrier for this gift than it is right now. We add color and texture and richness to our collective existence when we make, and when we share those creations, we create deep connection—gut to gut, heart to heart, soul to soul.
I’M REMINDED, NOW, of an insight I gained a couple of years ago when I was fortunate to study with the author Michael Parker at the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop. He began every class with a lesson on the finer points of the craft, and I particularly loved the sessions focused on the essay Notes on Writing a Novel by the writer Elizabeth Bowen. One morning this led to a discussion of poetic truth and its place in fiction.
Ms. Bowen taps into our novelist’s fear that it’s all been done, all been said, we have nothing original to offer. It is a question that translates, I would say, to any form of art or creation. As does Bowen’s position on the matter:
Oh, I do hope this realization touches you the way it touches me. I hope you feel its reminder that each of us experiences the world differently, and as such, each has a different expression of what it means to be in that world, with all its beauty and brokenness and glory. We all have truths beyond historical truths, scientific truths, rational truths. And when we reach for them and express them and bring them forth, we not only learn from our own act of creation, we make new connections via the power a poetic truth has to resonate.
Most of all, I hope this realization inspires you to pick up a pen or a paintbrush or a stack of magazines, or old wallpaper or fabric or a collection of autumn leaves and twigs, or an old piece of discarded wood and some wire and a hammer, and to dip in and see what’s there. Your heart wants to say something, I am certain, and when you let loose and let it speak, you will create something wholly original that may well surprise you.
Truth will be in there, I believe. And it will be an expression no other human has ever, or could ever, make.