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Guest Blog: Creativity Amidst the Chaos of COVID

>>By now we’ve all come to a head with COVID-19, it’s implications, and the limitations that social distancing - or quarantine - has set on our lives. Undoubtedly, creatives all over the world have been impacted by the order to stay safe by staying home. For those who are used to creating in groups, collaborating on projects, and performing in front of audiences regularly, this comes as a huge adjustment. I am choosing to view this as a push outside of the ‘safe’ zone, a time to explore new domains, and to crack down on things I’ve procrastinated doing due to my regular social outings and interactions. This is a time of intense creative hibernation, and incubation. This is also a time to reflect on what drives us to create. For me, I believe it’s a combination of my personal philosophy, and my hard-wired drive to create - what I call my “art attacks”.

My name is Tyra Jutai, and I’m a singer, songwriter, and producer based in Toronto, Canada. My music is edgy, poetic, cinematic-alternative dark-pop with vocals that will cut you. I already do most of my creative work from home, apart from collaborative projects like photoshoots, being in a studio, and performing live. In our day and age, it’s easy to send emails, have video chats, and file-share over the internet. Even while staying home I can continue activities such as production on my songs, file-sharing with collaborators, editing videos, at-home photoshoots, and planning for upcoming releases. With a simple studio setup, I am also able to continue to write songs, practice instruments, record, and share files for other people to write or produce on. Even without a sophisticated studio setup, I’ve been able to songwrite for years, using technology like voice memos on my cell phone, or - even simpler - pen and paper. We’ve had the opportunity and tools for years, but where COVID-19 comes in is that it has pushed us out of our comfort zone of relative certainty about the future.

Personally, I have felt uncertainty about the future in a very real sense at many times in my life. Not knowing where I’m going, who I am, or what I’m here to do is what has driven me to explore those questions in song and writing. I am not someone who has kept a regular schedule or trajectory for most of my life, so while the outbreak of COVID-19 is overwhelming, I have gotten used to the chaos of the world and have developed a philosophy of being, and creating around it. The way I see it, the world has and always will be chaotic. We can’t control it, even if we do our best to convince ourselves we have some semblance of control. All we can do is ride the chaos with grace - just as a surfer gracefully rides the chaotic waves of the ocean that are perpetually out of her control. That is the personal philosophy I operate on. What that means in practical terms is that I try and approach my creative endeavours with a sense of acceptance, rather than a sense of trying to impose control. If we can learn to accept the lack of control - that we’ve never really had - then we are freer to create without that constraint. We can let it go, which brings us more clarity and focus in our pursuit of making relatable works of art.

This moment in our history has gifted us creatives a time not only to hone our craft in isolation, but to listen and follow our artistic urges. Throughout a typical day, I will have any number of “art attacks”: moments where I feel an urgent drive to create. Some people refer to this as listening to the muse - divine gifts given to the artist whose task it is to share with others - or simply creative inspiration. For me, this will occur in the middle of the night when I’m mulling over some personal dilemma and turning it into rhymes, and suddenly, I need to grab my phone or a notebook and get that down before it escapes me. This will happen when I’m driving, and have to pull over to record a voice memo of a melody line that just hit me. This will happen when I stare too long at the room I’m sitting in, and see a set or tableau I could make for a photoshoot to accompany a song I’ve written. It’ll happen when I’m playing the track I’m producing and get the urge to improvise vocals.

Being socially isolated means we can spoil ourselves with art attacks. We can follow the muse, get those ideas down, and take the time to make them richer because the social world outside has slowed down. Moreover, the onset of COVID-19 has forced us to reflect on existential topics, on what matters most in life, on what we take for granted, and where our creative potential has been wasted in more frivolous times. We are collectively experiencing a terrible worldwide pandemic and it is affecting so many of our lives. For artistic purposes it presents us with time to reflect on what really matters and how to share that through the art we make. It’s time to dive into our creativity.

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