“This is precisely the time when artists go to work.”

I wasn’t going to get up today, haven’t felt like writing all week. Where there used to be space to reflect, there seems now to be space only for reaction. For news and anxiety and the barely held capacity to adjust to the new normal, each day.

We are each holding a lot more than we’re used to.

I cannot make anyone better, and my skills are of no use when COVID-19 comes knocking. I’m not a health professional, so I’m not going to be offering you best practice advice. But, if we can heal from this collective trauma by writing and talking about it, as Toni says, then that’s my place to contribute.

A friend shared this after I posted the quote above (or below, if you’re reading this in your inbox) on Slack.

“God wants peacocks not vultures, bright stars not sad comets, red noses not black death. God wants joy. I’ll not shrink from the burden”.

Red Noses, by Peter Barnes

It is so tempting to shrink. To let the overwhelm win. To stop contributing. To isolate our thoughts as well as our bodies.

I wonder if there’s ever been a word on anyone’s lips as continuously around the world as the name of this virus. You may think, as I did, that the world doesn’t need another blog on COVID.

What if everyone who was going to write thought that? Then we wouldn’t know about impact on the ground of Museveni’s extreme measures in Uganda to combat the virus, or understand how COVID may discriminate disproportionately against Māori, or contemplate how we might adapt to the new normal, or simply find a place to vent and be understood.  

There is no playbook for this. Some are adapting extremely well, but most of us are feeling the pressure, wondering if we’ve got it right, second-guessing ourselves, and just trying to keep our head above water right now.

If you can feel the sparkle burning, if it is there in you, you’re going to have to fight harder than usual to find its form. Carve the space out to give your idea some light and attention. Turn off the news. Sit in silence. Pick up that book. Go to the top of a hill. Leave your phone downstairs. Or take it with your and Facetime that person you’ve been thinking about.

Please – keep talking. Keep writing. Keep creating. Keep baking. Keep singing. Keep colouring. Keep trying.

We’ll be better for it if you do, I’m sure.

Images taken by the author outside Nadene Milne Art Gallery, Montreal Street, Christchurch on 22 March 2020

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