Art

How to Be Creative When the News Kills Your Muse

The news can be addictive. You know why? Because it’s all bad. Bad news is seductive. You like it—even if it makes you miserable. Despite cellphones, space travel, and Axe deodorant spray, we’re still cavemen keeping watch for saber-toothed tigers. Staying tuned to the news makes us feel like we’ve got our eyes on the man-eater.

Humans are also hardwired for schadenfreude, that instinctive reaction to someone else’s misfortune that assures you the same won’t happen to you. You’d know better than to take a selfie on that old rope bridge, you’d outwit that serial killer, and if not you, then someone just like you will surely solve the climate crisis. Thanks to the 24/7 news cycle, any time you need it you can turn on the news for that soothing reminder that bad things are happening to other people while you’re safe and special. It’s a kind of perpetual rubbernecking.

During our August Siren Salon, a group of creative women gathered via Zoom to discuss how to keep the news from sucking up all our time and creativity. Together we came up with some excellent and unexpected tips, which you’ll find below.

So what does news consumption have to do with creativity?

The more violence you’re exposed to in the news, the more you believe you’re actually in danger. You might’ve heard of The Mean World Syndrome? Yeah, it’s that.

Plus, the more you believe you’re in danger, the more stressed out you are. And stress drains away creativity.

Sadly, the last few years, we’ve had to rely on the news to stay safe. We’ve had to learn to consume the news in such a way so it protects our physical health without damaging our mental health.

What to do about it?

If I’m too distracted by the cares of the world to focus on writing, I often use meditation as a way to reset my mind and mood. However, I always think, if I’m meditating, I’m wasting valuable writing time. I figure that impatience is my cue to open my manuscript. Meditation, then, for me is a great warm-up to writing. My favorite warm-up meditation by far is “Ten-Minute Guided Meditation for Focus.” It’s amazing how efficiently it creates the perfect mindset for creativity. Works every time.

Before the Salon, I found a few articles with some good advice on how to keep the tsunami of news from wiping out your creative joy. First, you can practice “newscycle self-care.” Also, psychologist Robert Epstein offers a list of four things you can do to increase your creativity.

The participants in the August Salon came up with the following tips and resources:

You’ll both be happier. Silence is golden. Image by vk.studio

See the news for what it is. The 2014 neo-noir film Nightcrawler with Jake Gyllenhaal gives you a compelling look at what the news really is and does. It’ll put you off the news for awhile!

Shut off nuisance notifications on everything.

If you live with a news junkie, ask them to wear headphones. That way you don’t have to hear it!

Break the morning news habit. Even three minutes of news in the morning can ruin a whole day. If you can’t or don’t want to avoid the news altogether, ingest your news later in the day—but not too close to bedtime!

Read books that cultivate creative wellbeing. Participants in the August Siren Salon suggested:

A chart to help you find news to lead you to common ground

Be choosy about your news sources. Choose long-form and more reliable sources over flashy soundbite news. It’s the equivalent of choosing home-cooked meals over junk food. Here’s the official News Bias Chart.

Adjust the algorithms in your social media so that you can socialize without falling down unhealthy news-media rabbit holes or getting sucked into cyber-bickering.

If you find yourself spending all your creative time and energy writing a comment on someone’s upsetting political post—STOP. Write a letter to your representative instead. It takes the same time and energy, but it might actually make a difference instead of just adding to the noise.

If notice yourself feeling resentful or impatient while consuming the news, ask yourself, “Is this useful? Is this helping me right now?” If the answers are no, you’ve set yourself free to choose something that is helpful! Like get back to work on your book!

Want ideas to spur your creativity? Read “Four Ways to Boost Creativity for the New Year.”

Interested in participating in our next Siren Salon?

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Ritter Beard

Here are the details:

What: September Siren Salon “Oh, the Places We Go and the Vibes We Feel”
When: Tuesday, September 6th at 8PM Eastern Time

How does traveling awaken us to unique cultural shadings, attitudes, and emotions of other places? How does coming home feel after you’ve been away? What vibes have you discovered on your travels?

Author, editor, and American nomad Suzanne Heagy will lead a discussion about the places that get in our heads and hearts, including her recent feelings about traveling between West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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