there’s something about exams, about the mindbending stress they induce, about the level of shutdown your brain goes into. for me, exam seasons have never been about exams themselves, but about everything else.
i find myself relishing being let off early from classes, because as soon as i go home i take a good, long nap. i like having free blocks, when teachers let us study whatever we want to, so we pull up chairs and quiz our friends, or follow around the teacher as they entertain hysterical, nonsensical, or the rare well-thought-out question. i enjoy filling up pages of paper with math workings – done in pencil, because pen refills are expensive.
but this post isn’t about what goes on in school. it’s about what i do when i’m supposed to be studying. in those moments, i find myself more creative than i’ve ever been.
this isn’t a recent trend. when i was twelve and gearing up for my first bout of national exams, i found an old grid notebook with yellowing pages. it was my mother’s notebook, judging by the handwriting, but evidently (and thankfully) it wasn’t a very important notebook. that became my sketchbook for the year. i carried it out everywhere, drawing anything and everything that caught my fancy – from the line of my classmate’s back, to the imposing national museum. i wrote notes in it from a philosophy book. in short, it was my diary, and i loved it very much. the best sketch i’ve ever done comes with a defiant postscript: ‘done on xx/xx/xxxx, oral day!’ that sketchbook retains my fondest memories. i still remember my art teacher saying: ‘you know, this is a really great portfolio. if i didn’t know better i’d think you were gearing for art uni,’ citing the numerous sketches, studies, and figure drawings i’d done.
since then, the activities have changed, but the drive has not. my most recent exams saw me making music on musescore (god bless musescore), composing a 100-bar-long song inspired by chinese music, among other pieces. it felt really, really good. while there was a slight tinge of guilt that i wasn’t studying, it was quickly overtaken by the sheer joy of writing music. some of the best pieces i’ve produced (imho) were written when i was supposed to be doing anything but that. it was during times of external pressure. it seems as if creative energy leaks happen right when critical/analytical energy levels run dangerously high, initating some sort of shutdown that makes the right brain go into its happy place. i don’t know what’s the science, but i’m very thankful for this science, even if it rears its head in the most inopportune times.
my friends express this too. one friend also discovered musescore after i repeatedly sent her my music, and composed an intriguing piece after messing around with it for an hour or so. another friend found herself doodling gorgeous, gorgeous things right during exam peak period. this blog, itself, was born three days before national exams (i’m seeing a recurring pattern here). who knows what’ll come out of the next national exams two years later? (hopefully, something a little less time-consuming, because those exams MATTER!!)
in conclusion, on some level, stress helps us create, and we should embrace that and let it out instead of beating ourselves over it when we inevitably succumb to drawing bodiless eyes on exam papers. let yourself relax. write that blog post. draw that perfect face. feel that sense of satisfaction that you’ve created something just for yourself. that’s the special part – you’re not doing this because someone else told you to or forced you to. creativity is like a relationship – if you have to force it out, something’s wrong. allow yourself to be comfortable with doing things for yourself, and feel good that you’ve created something at the end of it. even as i’m typing this with my national exam looming over my head, i feel content that i’m sharing a part of myself that gives me satisfaction. try it out.
part 2 coming soon!! in the meantime, all the best to whoever who has exams and is reading this!! 🙈🙈
thanks for reading!!
anbudan, maggi xoxo