|Birds by vladstudio.com|
I’ve been a fairly creative person most of my life. Topping the list of creative enterprises is my lifelong love of music, primarily singing. It’s the one I always return to if I stray. Songwriting and guitar were natural progressions for the type of music I sang. And I’ve always loved to write.
Over the last decade I’ve taken on some new creative challenges, including photography (samples), collage (sample), piano, song arrangement, writing blogs, and teaching music (web site).
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how being disabled and having chronic pain have affected my creativity – and vice-versa. There are the obvious physical effects – I’m limited as to where I can go to take photos; I don’t have the stamina to perform music as often as I once did; getting myself to choir is becoming more difficult to manage; and even with a raised garden box, I find gardening challenging and not as enjoyable as I once did. But there are some positive effects as well.
My most recent creative undertaking has taken me by surprise: I’ve begun baking. For some reason, this month I binge-watched The Great British Bakeoff: five seasons of very fancy baking – tarts, pastry, breads, puddings, biscuits (known in the US as cookies). Baking is not something I’ve ever spent much time doing, except my annual challah (braided egg bread) around the winter holidays and the very occasional batch of cookies. I was so inspired by the beautiful creations on the show, and it looked so satisfying to mix some ingredients together and, like magic, pull a savory pie or gorgeous dessert out of the oven or freezer. I love the science, the chemistry, and the artistry of it.
To get baking, my first task was to set up the kitchen in the cottage (studio) to make everything accessible. It’s a small space and I need to sit on a tall stool for most of my work. Almost everything is within reach now – bowls, pans, flour and sugar, utensils, appliances. It has also required purchasing quite a few
toys tools. I’ve
never before drooled over kitchen catalogs or cookbooks (aka baking porn).
My first endeavors were mostly successful: fantastic focaccia, perfect pistachio shortbread, and a special order of vegan cinnamon rolls for Laurie. My cheesecake was a disappointment to me, though it got rave reviews from friends.
I have to wonder: is all this dabbling in different creative outlets a form of distraction for me? I don’t think about pain when I’m singing or arranging a song or kneading bread dough. I’m content doing something that’s fun and productive, and my mind is occupied with the task at hand and not stressing about my burning legs. A couple of times I’ve taken on a bit too much with a baking project and I get tired and sore, but I think that will get better as I get more organized and familiar with techniques and learn to pace myself.
Pure distraction for me is more about activities that don’t result in a satisfying product – things like watching TV, spending hours on Facebook, or playing games and doing puzzles on the iPad. I can get absorbed and sometimes forget about pain, but I don’t feel as satisfied at the end – sometimes, just the opposite: I feel like I’ve wasted time.
At a point in my life when I could – and sometimes do – feel rather useless, it’s good for me to dive into a project that feels purposeful, that results in something others might enjoy and that makes me feel competent and good about myself. Singing does that; taking beautiful and/or creative photos does that; and now baking something with care and love does that (though I need to search out vegan recipes for Laurie!). I’ve signed up for a 2-hour cooking workshop next weekend: 4 Desserts Every Cook Should Know (e.g. dark chocolate mousse!); we’ll see what comes of that, besides expanding waistlines.
Uh-oh, I just discovered three seasons of The Great Irish Bakeoff online. But this is research, not mindless watching! Right??