Wherefore Art Thou Reset Button?
By Matthew Shaffer
The stark snowy glow of my blank computer screen shames me. “You should be doing more!” “Why aren’t you using this time to write the next epic novel?” “You missed a huge moment to level up in your career during this pandemic.” “Where did your passion go?” “What’s wrong with you!” “WHAT. IS. WRONG. WITH. YOU?!”
To refine my craft and expand my career as an author, I spent a decade writing daily for my blog. Day after day, I would wake up and write. I never questioned the material or judged the accuracy of my message––I just actualized my thoughts––to develop my voice. I always aimed for Andrea Bocelli and accepted that (most days) I was Britney Spears. Regardless, those habits, which I harnessed as a young dancer in the studio, always led to productivity and opportunity.
Now, unmotivated and uninspired, I face a foreign feeling: indifference (A.K.A. the death of creativity). How can I imagine a brilliant new book; set an important piece of choreography; or produce a fun pop-culture parody (which would no doubt break TiK Tok), if I don’t have a point of view? The short answer: You don’t. So, what do you do?
In search of the truth, I turned to the obvious “go-to” for anyone born after 1995: Google. “How do artists find motivation during a quarantine?”
I found out that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during a quarantine. I learned that Banksy is bombarding Instagram with his signature street art. And I uncovered an endless assortment of undiscovered dancers, actors, singers, writers, and visual artists collaborating in countless ways to provoke, invigorate, and entertain.
Yet, there I sat, somber and insecure. Suddenly, a revelation. This is my Factory Reset! Anyone that owns an Apple product would have recognized the colorful spinning pinwheel that danced across my brain 24/7. It wasn’t until this pandemic, that I was forced to dive deep into my obsession with churning out content. I’ve always preferred quality to quantity in everything; why push creativity if it isn’t there?
Simple. I grew up in a competitive dance studio. Like professional athletes, dancers push. We endure. When we’re not feeling well, we swallow a handful of holistic vitamins and sweat out the sick. When our body is in pain, we rub on muscle cream, wrap it up, and return to the barre. When we’re tired, we drink a grande latte and glide across the stage. Make no mistake, I don’t think it’s healthy for our mind, body, or soul. Here’s the thing: Dancers are athletes, and we should charge through setbacks––with restraint. We’re also artists; and we owe it to ourselves and our craft to contemplate, meditate, and rest. Our work and our mental well-being will benefit.
With a newfound understanding of my conditioned pattern to generating work, I decided to redistribute my energy. I accepted that some people are incredibly spirited and driven to create right now; others are not. That’s what makes us unique and important. From there, I shifted my focus from creating to consuming. I raided my bookshelves, rereading great works of literature; socially distanced and with a mask––of course––I strolled through museums getting lost in the maze of magnificent art and antiquities; and I channeled my anger, energy, and “voice” to stand up and speak out against the injustice and inequality that still exists in the world. That’s when I remembered the impact that artists have. We are the voice of the voiceless. We are the light in the darkness. We are the hope for the hopeless. True, we might not always be motivated to live up to the responsibility, and that’s okay. Newton’s third law reminds us that for every action there is a reaction; we have to exhale before we can inhale; the tide rolls out and then back in. My point? There’s a give and take. If you find yourself sitting in an empty studio or staring at a blank canvas awaiting a direction, know that you’re not alone. Relax, reset, and rest assured, when audiences return to theaters across the country they will be craving art, entertainment, and inspiration––and our passion, instinct, and will prevail.
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