AHP News

The Role of Creativity In Our Lives

To kick-off the Alliance Health Project’s new Art at Home space, we offer this piece on the role of creativity in our lives and the gifts it can endow us with, written by Maxine Hamilton, one of our HIV test counselor volunteers. 

In these strange times, our desire for connection, escape, and exploration has been magnified to its fullest. If we are essential workers, we are working and risking our health to provide critical care and goods and services so the rest of us can stay at home. You may have been furloughed or laid off completely, or trying to adapt to working from home, alone, or crammed into a small space with, kids, roommates, partners, and/or extended family.

There is grief and fear in this time. Loss of plans, celebrations, weddings, graduations and saddest of all, funerals. Suddenly we are all, across the globe, “stuck” right where we are. To cope with the myriad of feelings that are present during this time, I often ponder what resources I can rely on, both internally and externally to help me handle this deeply uncomfortable and unwelcome reality? Along with staying active and maintaining elements of routine, I keep being called to create more — to paint, write, tinker with jigsaw puzzles, cook, dance, and learn to play an instrument. At this time, when opportunities for connection feel scarce, the urge to create is a way of connecting to ourselves, other artists, and the communities we were engaged with. Creativity offers each of us a path to feeling and expressing all the complexities of our lives, and everyone has been touched by COVID-19.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls the process tapping into our imaginations “filling the well,” an opportunity to stay inspired and remain curious about all of our experiences, even the most mundane ones, and to foster our imaginations by spending time playing with our artist selves.

I invite you to carve out time, to explore, seek beauty and create. There is an artist who resides in each of us — the part of us that finds joy in all things that are pleasing to the senses. And then, turn this inspiration into action. Does the pressure of quarantine invite you to write a letter to an old friend that you want to share? Does the view out your window, which you hadn’t really stopped to notice before, inspire you to paint what you now see? Have you always wanted to learn to bake bread and are now called to learn? How about learning the electric slide or needle point? What small voice inside you has been asking to be heard?

Find what calls to you, and use this time to push yourself to go there. For me it is dance. This is where I can most consistently find what many writers have referred to as “flow.” I can only describe this feeling as an untethered and uninhibited, yet focused, release of the self into what I am doing. This action fills me with a deep sense of both healing and connection — to myself, to those who came before me, and to those who I’ve shared this experience with. While I take classes each week (these are still available to me, fortunately, through live streams), while music is filling my room, I am exploring how it feels to move my body through space, to connect with my teachers, other dancers, and myself. For me, this is the stuff of life’s magic, giving voice to my inner artist — loud, expressive, and alive. Dance is just one of the many things that moves me.

We are all experiencing this massive shift together. What better time to create something together, to take this time to foster and share our innate creativity? 

 “In filling the well, think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty. Do not do what you should do – spiritual sit-ups like reading a dull but recommended critical text. Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you; think mystery, not mastery.” - Julia Cameron