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A Retreat to Creativity: field notes from a biology student

By Lucia Hu (she/her)

Lucia illustrates how she reconciled her everyday routine as a marine sciences post-grad student with a yearning for creativity.

Long gone are the unprecedented days of lockdown in Aotearoa. We are no longer confined at home browsing Netflix till the silhouette of your frame permanently imprints itself on the couch. As society today revs up its gears to ‘normal life’, soaring community cases mean most of us are still working, studying, or even volunteering, from home. Day by day, we are swept into an accustomed regime, exasperated by a monotonous environment we call home. As a research student, the general day-to-day wrings dry my creative mentality – don’t get me wrong, I love science. But necessity being the mother of invention means after a long week in the biology labs, I find myself repeatedly tuning out to seek creativity.

When you hear about researchers, analysts, or business people, we often don’t associate these careers with creative practices. But from my observations, NZ's Covid lockdown has acted as a catalyst that brought more people (or fewer people) from every walk of life to delve into their creative hobbies. My friends around me, whose backgrounds involved accounting, finance, law and construction, respectively took up furniture up-cycling, start-up streaming, professional cake baking, and gardening. I can’t deny that their works inspired me to also tread firmly on the road to retrieve my creativity.

I believe every human being possesses an innovative stance. Yet are we really expressing it to its full potential? A couple of searches entered within databases on the role of creative practices with science came to no avail. What about the topic of creative interventions for Covid-induced mental disorders?

You guessed it, the results were prolific. Studies have shown that expressive art therapy is a coping method for patients hospitalised with Covid. It enhanced how individuals perceived their physical, social, and mental wellbeing, at the same time reducing the sense of depression and anxiety.¹ The creative process of art is unrestricted, meaning an individual can express complex ideas in a self-reflective manner. Ultimately, practicing self-compassion and self-care are both known to enhance life satisfaction.² If creativity is a way to overcome for Covid patients, then indeed, if you are stuck in a mind rut because of your dreary career, creativity is your way out.

Seriously though, stop paying for those therapy apps. Start small; how about first changing up your home environment to suit work and study whilst pursuing your creative indulgences - music, art, writing - anything you fancy. Or go big. Seek creative passages with the people and community around you. Yes, it’s doable on Zoom or Microsoft teams. Believe me, I tried. Like the rabbit in wonderland, my creative passages often lead me down voids in the form of sketches; the action phase then arises and, finally, manifestation. Forgive my mind spew, let me clear it up. My sister and I recently designed and then built an alcove storage bench for all our board games (special shoutout to our two generous friends reading this). It now fits right in a nook by the window at our flat. So who said creativity is only brushes and paper? It comes in the form of circular saws and pocket-hole drills too. Now, stop wasting time, launch into that long-awaited project and unleash your creative capabilities - with the added bonus of leveling up on a new skill or two in between.

Finally, you might wonder if my journey ended up with me retrieving my creativity. I did. Only to discover - although a tad rusty - I can still achieve something with the semi-solidified paints and sagging canvas. Acknowledging that yes, I do still love painting and apparently also gardening, cooking, and furniture making. So what if there’s a rampaging covid pandemic? Get inspired by the people around you; learn a new hobby or two, and by all means even dust off that bucket list you created years ago. Whether you come from a background that does not strictly embrace creativity or not, dial it down, put on some sick beats, and allow yourself to retreat: to creativity. It is liberating.


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