Every news channel is reporting that the next twelve or more weeks are going to the darkest days of the Coronavirus pandemic. This new normal is anything but normal and has even caused me a colossal amount of unnecessary stress, of which I’m sure everyone else can relate. Being forced to wear masks everywhere you go is a hassle and I can’t tell you how many times, after I’ve left my house confident that I’ve got everything, I’d realize the one thing I needed I had forgotten: MY MASK! Every time I put one of these masks on, I feel like I’m about to rob a bank or a convenient store.In even more unusual circumstances, I’ve gotten to witness how incredibly romantic it is to have two people in love wearing masks and protecting each other. Whether love is in the air or not, it is for everybody when you decide to do your part, wear a mask, and protect someone else. The great thing about 2020, despite how oddball this year has been, it’s great to see everybody caring for each other and even complete strangers. It comforts me witnessing this care in public and at home.
Throughout my thirty-six years of life, I’ve learned the costs of living in fear. Pre-pandemic, I didn’t realize I was doing just that and allowing every nonsense obligation and desire to be a people pleaser hold me up from doing what I’ve wanted to do. There is something about being stuck indoors that is making me come out of my shell and do everything I couldn’t do before (because of work, the long commutes and how much time I’d wasted trying to strive for normalcy). I had forgotten that normalcy is something I’d never strived for, not anymore, anyway.
An email from someone I know asked me how I stay motivated and do so much creative work despite these challenging times. Some days, I wake up in the morning wondering if this pandemic will ever lift. I’ll want to produce a drawing, write an article or sew up an outfit but I’ll ask myself, “what’s the point?” At some point in the last month, amidst the silence and stillness, one thought I had changed the game for me after I actually found the answer to, “what’s the point?” Keep reading, I’ll get to that point.
The Benefits of Stillness and Silence
Pre-pandemic, when I was incredibly anxious working at a bridal shop, I began meditating and incorporating moments of stillness into my routine to combat career anxiety. At first, this breathing-oriented type of meditation was not only for taming my anxiety, also for slowing life down. Towards the end of March, I quit working at the bridal shop as the pandemic marched the world into quarantine, and felt beyond prepared for it. Isolation, as it turns out, was never a problem and never viewed being alone as isolation. I’ve noticed that when I’m still and in silence, that’s when my drive for creativity kicks in, when I’m not consumed by nonsense chaos. Ideas flood in and the only thing I want to do is act on these ideas and bring them to life.
Honestly, though, it’s been incredibly stress relieving not to be in such a rush every morning and instead, easing into my day with Yoga stretches and/or meditation practices. Utter silence awakens things within us, and it’s creativity for me. Sometimes, spending an hour writing and listening to nature with my windows ajar is quite rejuvenating. Brain dumping or journaling reboots me and clears the clutter from my thoughts. It’s in those quiet mornings when our minds are forced to go places, and that’s when my imagination begins functioning at its fullest capacity. A good start to a morning means this imagination of mine keeps going strong all throughout the whole day. And I take advantage of this incoming inspiration and these ideas.Image Courtesy of Unsplash
Working from home and being alone has given me the opportunity to harness my discipline for finishing projects; both personal endeavors and client deadlines. I’ve found that solitary confinement is the key ingredient to enhancing productivity. While in this silence, I’d reflect on those crazy days, weeks and months pre-pandemic as I bustled from one thing or adventure to the next, not even slowing down to admire scenery or just stop skittering everywhere like a spastic squirrel. The consequences of living in such fast paced ways affected my motivation for creating and producing art and found myself dealing with a ton of creative blocks.
Now, my imagination is like a moving train with no pitstop or malfunctions. Ideas flood in and I tackle them like a football player head and hands on, completely immersed in creating. It’s a flow of energy that I crave and am so grateful to be in as I navigate this new (ab)normal. I get to do my hobbies which still involve being creative but the difference is, these are hobbies that I don’t feel the need to post to Instagram. Like cooking, another art, I’ll spend one hour or more preparing my meals because it brings me joy and feel so great eating healthy. The other day, I spent four and a half hours cooking and meal prepping and whipped up four entree’s in one sitting, or, standing.
Also in my spare time, I’ve been doing other kinds of art just for fun such as painting and watercolors. I am now in the process of launching tessakollerart.com and am SOOOO excited about this. These pandemic days have been well spent producing artwork and saleable content for this dream online store I’d always wanted to do. Painting and drawing are different forms of meditations; a way of grounding yourself in the present moment while only focusing on what’s in front of your eyes.The busyness of life with an ever-growing and evolving to-do list can clog the brain like it’s a broken disposal. Ideas are there but they quickly get lost in all that unnecessary junk situational stress and stress in general can cause. Writing or engaging our minds rids the clutter and makes room for other great things we were struggling to access previously. Long periods of stillness and quiet gives our brains clarity so we can process and make the most of our daily lives and schedules. The good thing about having a creative brain is it’s always on and lighting up with new ideas while keeping me busy, especially now.
As an entrepreneur, like everyone else in the world, I, too, have been spanked hard by this pandemic, as most entrepreneurs are unfortunately experiencing. I’ve got many friends and colleagues who are musicians and have felt overwhelming frustration or that their careers and lives are suddenly at a stand still. The entire world has been at a stand still yet Coronavirus cases continue spiking and spreading. While it may feel like your dreams and goals have been depleted due to this pandemic, rest assured, they’re NOT! There is a flipside to all this crazy, you’ve just got to flip your mindset. Believe me, it took me a while to redevelop this frame of mind, but once I did, I not only felt relieved, I felt excited to continue actively doing my passions each day with zero expectations and pressure. Working in this way has kept all this art producing extremely fun and enjoyable.The Flipside To These Unprecedented Times
Sadly, every industry is hurting right now and this fact used to impact my motivation a great deal. In pandemic times, I’ve become aware of how important it is to have great music in your ears, watch inspiring movies, documentaries or YouTube tutorials online. There is a demand for positive things in the world such as music, art, and anything that enhances or boosts our moods and mental health. People, not speaking for everybody just guessing, are utterly sick of receiving devastating pandemic and election related news. I had read an article recently that said, even if it may not seem this way, right now is the BEST time to have a career online.
Millions are being forced to work remotely or from home via the Internet. Hundreds of entrepreneurs and/or creative individuals have turned to social media or YouTube and are seeing even more engagement. Recently, I had started my YouTube art channel, an endeavor I’d wanted to do for years now. I’d discovered another skill I didn’t even know I possessed: teaching art. Never, have I ever imagined being OK with livestreaming or broadcasting myself on YouTube, a platform that still terrifies me. I’d actively avoided the platform in the past but now, I have no more fears and am loving the community that’s developing from this.
It’s a lot more involved than I had initially thought: first, I come up with a curriculum or a theme in an art-based tutorial and build on that concept from there. Then I produced the art piece while filming and simultaneously thinking about how I’m going to make this tutorial worth a viewer’s while and time. Once I complete the art piece, I then upload all the video footage to my laptop and begin crafting the video. I have so much respect for YouTubers who do this as it’s also more challenging and time-consuming than I had prepared for. But it is so enjoyable!
That’s the whole point. Even on those days when I ask myself, ‘what’s the point?’, my answer is: working or doing my hobbies keeps me engaged in something creative and I feel a strong sense of accomplishment, joy and inner fulfilment. Creating and being productive feels good, even if you’re not getting what you think you should out of it. Creative or not, our brains crave a kind of productivity that directly affects the Limbic System of the brain, every system, really. The Limbic System, according to Google, describes this aspect of the brain as this: “The limbic system is a set of structures in the brain that deal with emotions and memory. It regulates autonomic or endocrine function in response to emotional stimuli and also is involved in reinforcing behavior.”
Doing art or an activity that exercises the brain affects the Limbic System in such a transformative way. When we do something that boosts our endorphins or emotional health, we want to do this behavior again. We want to feel that goodness, that way creativity ascends our emotional state to an undeniable high. It’s the driving force that keeps me motivated to produce, produce, and produce and create, create, create! It’s my happiness, joy and the way I stay grounded in my day and the present moment.Being productive also means you’re not obsessing over the past or worrying about the future and if you’ll catch the Coronavirus. OK, I do worry about catching the Coronavirus but I’m doing what I can to remain sensible while also thoroughly engaged. The next question thrown at me was: “But, wait, how do you stay motivated in the long-term? Are you motivated EVERY single day?”
Sustaining Motivation In the Long-Term
If you’re struggling to stay motivated right now and make that last, regardless of whatever field you’re in, I have been there. I’m nothing at all like the energizer bunny. But whenever I sit down and put pencil to paper, do a drawing or a painting, after every art piece or body of writing I do, I feel like a hundred bucks and it’s affirming to know that I made myself feel this darn great. And then, I want to create more good stuff. The brain on drawing or art of any kind looks like a firework show on the Fourth of July.The Key Ingredient To Sustaining This Motivation To Work
Inspiration is a key ingredient for sustaining motivation each day. Even if I fall into a trap of feeling uninspired, it only takes me a few minutes to spark my inspiration and then act on that. On those uninspired days, I’ll relax and watch YouTube art tutorials or those fun time lapse art videos on Instagram. And then suddenly, I pop up wanting to create something.
Other days, I’ll go on what I like to call Meditative Idea Walks. I unplug and focus on my footsteps hitting the pavement. I also focus on my surrounding environment. I’ve been going on these walks for a while in conjunction with early-morning Yoga when I get a chance, or evening Yoga if I can’t do that in the morning. Taking breaks, changing up scenery or (safely) going to your favorite places nearby can boost your motivation. It might sound strange, but sometimes I will go to my local greenhouse and take photos of flowers, plants, unusual natural forms or structures and that gets me excited to create.
On other occasions, I’d serve myself a cup of tea and sit at home doing work on my laptop or a drawing and pretend I’m at a coffee shop. Like everyone else, I do have moments when I’m feeling run down and need to take a break for a day or two to reboot. That’s the beauty and joy of being your own boss: I dictate my daily schedule. It’s what I’m used to doing. I do what I can to not fall into a drab or dull routine that drains my energy and motivation.
New studies show that art enhances brain function and has a direct impact on the central nervous system as well. Actually, I have noticed a drastic change in my mental and emotional state and outlook in general. The brain on art might be very active, but creativity quiets and centers the mind. I used to really struggle with depression until I started doing art on an entirely different level this past February of 2020, the onset of the pandemic. On Facebook recently, someone asked me if I was struck by lightning and could suddenly draw like Leonardo da Vinci, and that cracked me up. This might shock you but I am my worst art critic and am always so hesitant to share my work. I know that, regardless of how I feel about my artwork, I am impacting others by sharing it.Art has the power to alter one’s conscious, intervene in anxiety-evoking thoughts, and transform one’s emotions. Merely looking at an art piece has the same effect on the brain as the artist who made the piece. If you genuinely love what you do for a living, your brain is always in the midst of a process without you even realizing it. I think about brain health in relationship to the mind and how they play off each other. They are different, the brain and mind, but they both provide the same thing: balance–another key ingredient in sustaining motivation in tough times.
How we manage or conduct all facets of our health affect our whole selves. Balance is something I always try to be conscious of and ensuring I’m not spreading myself too thin of which I’m known to sometimes do. How we function in our daily life dictates our overall emotional health and mental overall wellbeing. Leading a balanced daily life while at home and doing things that inspire me prolong my motivation. Just remember that motivation derives from inspiration which derives from a willingness to keep growing, learning and doing. The next time you find yourself stuck in a rut, do something that inspires you, whatever that may be. It’s the best medicine and will keep you moving.
Thank you for following along. I’m going to post to this blog more frequently, so keep checking back each week. I’ve got some HUGE announcements coming up! Also, while you’re here, subscribe to my YouTube Art Channel. I post videos on Thursdays, not every week, but am also getting into a scheduling groove with this! Check out my latest video on drawing reflections!
What are you guys doing to sustain your motivation? If you’ve got any tips, leave them in the comments below or just say hi if you’re new to my blog. Thanks again for stopping by, guys! Stay safe!