This has been, without a doubt, the least creative year of my life. And it’s really messing with my sense of self.
I’m not good at a whole lot, but I am very good at creating cool stuff. Amongst other things, I’ve had three books published, founded an award-winning arts & culture website, had my work translated into four languages, written weekly columns for three Bay Area publications, been paid to travel the world and write about it, did a live late-night show focusing on local talent, made a satirical web series about San Francisco, and created and hosted my own travel TV show on the Independent Film Channel. I’m not just creative, I’m prolific – I put out multiple new projects every year.
And in this, the year of our lord must be crazy, 2020, I haven’t done shit.
It’s not from lack of wanting to – creating things brings me immense joy – it’s that I just haven’t felt very capable of it. And I had a lot of plans for this year too, including launching a new website and filming a second season of my web series, Shaky Ground. When the pandemic destroyed my income, those things flickered into the darkness. As you can imagine, all this made a difficult year even harder, especially when I see so many other really talented people creating brilliant new work.
The whole thing has me beginning to wonder if I’ve lost the touch, if my magic has run out. For someone who creates for a living and defines themselves by their creative output, there are few scarier feelings. It borders on an existential crisis.
It appears though that I’m not alone.
A few weeks ago, I tweeted “2020 has been the least creative year of my life. Like I just don’t feel very capable of creating. Is anyone else in this boat too?”
And the replies were astounding. Dozens of other people who also create for a living responded that they felt exactly the same way. People whose work I loved and respected were also stuck in the same uninventive morass. It was a small relief knowing I’m not the only one wondering what the hell they were doing with their lives.
My friend Alex Leviton, who was my mentor back when I wrote for Lonely Planet, said the thing that finally helped ease my despair. She responded, “This year isn’t about finding or making meaning. It’s all about gaining meaning. Trauma makes us hella creative. Just not while we’re in it.”
And that’s it. She nailed it. Some of the best art in the world has come out of traumatic experiences, but that art is usually created afterward, as a way of processing what happened. And 2020 has been incredibly traumatic. From a deadly global pandemic, to a nasty election, to the loss of so many jobs, to the president cheering on white supremacists as they march through our streets, nobody is coming out of this year without some scars.
Hopefully, those of us who use our minds and bodies as conduits to create meaning will be able to take those scars and create beautiful, powerful things. Some people have taken up more useful ways to channel their creative hibernation, like baking and buying lots of plants, while others have lost themselves in Netflix, video games or books. But once we get through this, whenever that is, I predict a renaissance of words, art, music and film, expressing all the loneliness, anger, frustration, and hurt that people couldn’t quite figure out how to express while going through it.
Sending you love and solidarity in these truly shitty times.
Make sure you vote early.
Stuart Schuffman is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list at http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. His column appears every other Thursday. He is a guest columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner.