– By Maria Andress –
“A guide to productivity? I need to catch a breather!”
If that’s your reaction to the title, one, I don’t blame you, and two— be at peace. Most of us probably fall into the category of that meme which shows someone building the sandcastle of their entrepreneurial craftsmanship while the tsunami of Covid-19 looms devastatingly overhead. You might be scrambling to make ends meet or completely stumped into inactivity by the overwhelming panorama. Or maybe you are able to work at home but still need to take it one hour at a time.
Relax. This will not be a “15 Magic Things to Do to Churn Out More Results Per Day” article.
Organic creativity was never meant to fall under the ruse of utilitarian productivity. “Utilitarianism” (the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority ¹) is a strictly modern viewpoint that has overtaken the pursuit of “art” (the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power ²).
The term “utilitarianism” was actually used very little until the late 1800’s (hint: think Industrial Revolution.) Since then it has swallowed art whole and made it nearly impossible to explore genius or beauty without succumbing to idols, poverty, and everything in between while doing so. If you’ve ever tried to break through by filming your own script without starving or going insane, even if you’ve succeeded in the end, you will get the idea.
Art, as taught in the Catholic tradition, is even more importantly supposed to be a participation in a creative act that mirrors the Creator. Pope St. John Paul II writes in his “Letter to Artists”:
“Dear artists, you well know that there are many impulses which, either from within or from without, can inspire your talent. Every genuine inspiration, however, contains some tremor of that “breath” with which the Creator Spirit suffused the work of creation from the very beginning. Overseeing the mysterious laws governing the universe, the divine breath of the Creator Spirit reaches out to human genius and stirs its creative power. He touches it with a kind of inner illumination which brings together the sense of the good and the beautiful, and he awakens energies of mind and heart which enable it to conceive an idea and give it form in a work of art.”
As the stress gets to us or as we have more down time to reevaluate where our individual creative productivity is headed, take a few extra moments to rekindle the basis of art.
Below then is a list of 15 Ways to Awaken Your Creative Genius:
- Get up earlier than you would on a normal vacation day to see the sunrise and start the extra time with 10 minutes of meditation.
- Read JPII’s letter to Artists.
- Alternate 40 minutes of work with 10 minutes of exercise. This method is known to help with energy levels, particularly when consistently working from a place where you normally try to be comfortable.
- Explore a new medium of art for 15 minutes every day. If this quarantine continues for a couple weeks, you’ll have a solid foundation on whichever branch you choose.
- Grab a book on your list and read for 15 minutes each every day. You’ll be surprised how quickly you make a dent in the page count. If you want to keep reading after 15 minutes, go ahead! (Hint: you’ll get through more books that way.) A good first option if you have no list is “Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton.
- Drink more water than you normally would. 1 cup per half hour is how much your body can absorb at a time. Not only is it good for keeping your body energized, but hydration also affects brain activity.
- Learn how to chant the “Veni Creator Spiritus.” If you absolutely cannot even squawk, at least speak it.
- Call an artist friend to hear what inspires them. Or to see if they’ve had any brilliant ideas during this time.
- Read “On Faerie Stories” by J.R.R. Tolkien.
- Find one quote per day that inspires you. Letter it, memorize it, put it on your wall. Over time you will have a collage of visible creativity joggers.
- If you take a nap, do 10 minutes of aerobic exercise immediately after. Calisthenics or pilates or weight lifting push you out of the sluggish post-nap state.
- Google “virtual tours of churches in Rome.” Catholic art from the past centuries evokes a phenomenal response of awe and beauty.
- When you have things you need to get done, split them into a feasible amount (not more than 5 per day) for the week. Be sure to include 1 hour per day of a creative activity that is relaxing to you.
- Pick a new aspect of prayer offered for centuries by the Church to commit to daily. A Rosary, 20 minutes of Lectio Divina, or evening Compline (even cooler with the side-by-side Latin/English translation found on the app BrevMeum) are a couple fairly simple and short suggestions.
- Do eat well, take a warm bath a couple times a week, and stick to a decent sleep schedule.
Think on this, from Pope St. John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists”: “Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savor life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: ‘Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!’”
Art is as a surge of the human heart toward union with the Divine. The space to live and the passion to succeed is hidden there.
¹Simpson, J. A., and E. S. C. Weiner. 1989. The Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
About the Author
Maria Andress is a film production and acting alumna from JPCatholic (Class of ’17) who hails from the proud green and gold state of Wisconsin. She is currently working in film producing, and pursuing a career in period film production. She is also a travel enthusiast always on the lookout for a fascinating idea or historical tidbit that she can translate to story through the many mediums of art.
Photo credit: Amanda Gonzalez