The Third Something

065 / You Don't Need To Make Art Today

Some thoughts from the first days of lockdown - should you be making art out of all this chaos? Don’t feel guilty if you can’t.

Today’s letter is for anyone feeling like they should be making art out of what is happening right now.

I feel it too. I am locked down in an apartment all by myself with barely an interruption all day. I have fantasised about having this kind of peace to create for a long time (of course, not in these circumstances) - and now I have it!

The time and space to create something meaningful and an event of profound magnitude taking place outside my window…

And I got nothin’.

I feel guilty, as if I am wasting an opportunity; I imagine all the other people out there firing up their novels and comics, moulding poetry from the madness.

If you have been feeling the guilt, remember this: our creative flames are delicate and fickle and they don’t deal in ‘shoulds’. Feeling like you should be creative is a near guarantee that you won’t be. It’s one of the reasons writing a second novel or album is so difficult.

And that’s OK. You don’t need to make art out of this, today.

So what can you do instead? Four things:

  1. Forgive yourself and be gentle to your creative imp. I wouldn’t want to play right now either.
  2. Experience this. Be in the present with what is happening, tune into it - breathe it in. It might not be fuelling you today, but your art might need to come back to the experience of now in the future. Embrace the magnitude of it all.
  3. If you have free time and energy, look for opportunities to help. It could be as small as helping an elderly neighbour with their shopping.
  4. And fill your sketchbook! Even if you don’t feel inspired it is important to keep the wheels turning, to keep the system running (#45). Turn to a new blank page and start moving your pen across the paper. The sketchbook is a place you go to discover how you are feeling.

A page from Adam Westbrook’s sketchbook

That said, some Third Something readers have felt inspired to turn the situation into cool things.

Tom Price emailed to tell me about an Instagram project he is getting off the ground called Lend A Hand. He’s asking people to submit a photograph of their hand alongside a story of kindness that has emerged amid the crisis. It’s a lovely combination of words and pictures.

Meanwhile Eric Maierson and Julie Elman have started an Instagram project called When This Is Over, a collection of photos and doodles where people remember the things they love and will do again once this all passes, as one day it shall.

Until another Sunday soon,

Adam's signature