And the Word of the Year for 2020 is . . . RESILIENCE! I hate to wish away time but, there are only 15 days left in this disastrous year! I know that we certainly are not out of the woods yet and that COVID-19 will still be a persistent part of our lives on 1/1/21, but I’ve decided to count just making it through this year a great success.
I was reading an article from the Harvard Business Review earlier this week for something at my other job entitled “How Resilience Works.” It was written in 2002 after 9/11, but there is certainly a need to consider resilience right now too. What struck me first this sentence: “…resilience is one of the great puzzles of human nature, like creativity or the religious instinct.” That got me thinking about the relationship between resilience and creativity and how important it can be in creative work to just keep going. So much of the work we do as artists we do alone. We keep working day after day on a piece, not knowing whether it is going to pan out or work the way we want it to, not knowing whether anyone else will see the value in the work. Nevertheless, we persist.
The other relationship between resilience and creativity described in the article comes in the characteristics of resilient people. Diane L. Coutu, the author of the article, suggests that there are three characteristics of resilient people: “a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise.” I think that there is a lot of overlap with these and with the characteristics of creativity, especially in the ability to improvise. I have heard those moments when something goes wrong with a project and when you are forced to improvise euphemistically called “Creative Opportunities.” We’ve all had those moments when we run out of paint just as we are finishing and there’s no time to jump in the car and drive to the store or when we are putting the last stitches into a quilt and we nick a hole in it with our scissors, right? But, after a few minutes of well-deserved cursing (side note: don’t watch the holiday edition of the Great British Baking Show with your young children because it contains some surprisingly uncharacteristic language!), we step back, take a deep breath, and come up with Plan B. And, how often has it happened that your improvised solution turns out to be the thing that takes a piece from good to great?
So, as we celebrate the end of this lousy year, take a moment to also celebrate your creativity. Your creative practice has helped train your improvisation muscles, encouraged you to persist when the work became challenging, and helped you develop resilience, which is something we all need more of this year. May 2021 bring you all that 2020 did not. Happy New Year!
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