It is a great pleasure to have had the chance to interview Tyra Jamison. She is a writer from Pittsburgh, who I originally had the opportunity to meet at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Her words take listeners and readers, on journeys they won’t regret. The following interview on the topic of artists and the lockdown situation, touches on aspects of loss, gain, and the ever changing creative process through the eyes of Tyra (Mantis Writes)

How has COVID affected your creative process? Is it positive or negative? Why? 

“COVID has forced me to sit & examine all my creative process is. Writing and healing feels so impractical to the structure of this world but now healing is at the forefront. The same way you learn to take care of your body better in the face of illness, I’ve been learning to care for all of me. The collective grief makes it difficult to focus or create as if everything is normal. That’s because it’s not normal. Treating ourselves and each other as little creative factories can be super damaging. It’s a Western value to remove our art from the context of who we are and what we’re experiencing. Making art for craft’s sake can be really fun and engaging but making art to meet a quota when you already have to over-produce for the sake of consistency has never worked out for me. 

As a Black femme whose been diagnosed with ADHD very recently, I feel like the method of creating to grind was really exhausting as it was.

How often do you indulge in your creative practice? 

“I’m always journaling, I write new work if the bodies of work I’m feeding need or if a poem comes to me. Mainly I edit, promote myself, and am building the kinds of platforms I want.” 

What resources have you gained/lost? 

“I gained access to virtual therapy! My insurance carrier allowed teletherapy without copay for a minute, and that was super helpful. I was able to start as an Artist in Residence at Vanessa German’s ArtHouse in Pittsburgh. I also have been able to tend to some opportunities through the networks & support systems I already had before the pandemic. I’ve also been focusing on a year-long holistic health course with House of Umi, and that has strengthened my own healing journey and created so many more possibilities for how I can fulfill all of my purpose.

I lost in-person networking. There’s socially distant events but I really have to pick & choose where I’m at. I really miss just getting on a bus or train, or pulling up to a gallery crawl. Especially as the weather gets colder, seasonal depression really hits me, and I tend to feel isolated.” 

What do/don’t you miss? What are/aren’t you looking forward to? 

“It’s also really weird being back where I grew up, where I have a huge extended family, and I’m not spending much time with them, because that was one of my intentions for being back in Pittsburgh. Every time I spend time with people there’s joy but there’s also a deep sense of anxiety and risk. And dating has been a lot less carefree. I can’t go out and meet people and spend my early 20s how I imagined because even if that stuff is officially opened it feels really socially irresponsible. 

I’m really looking forward to all the ways that Black and marginalized communities have practiced autonomy during this time. I’ve been seeing a rise in the call to love and care for each other as the world is really volatile. We’re essentially living through the downfall of a fascist settler-colonial empire. I’m really not looking forward to this election because it feels like there’s going to be an uptick in state violence and everyone’s will is stretched thin.”  

Has the way you see yourself (as a creative) changed? 

“It has! I have a more compassionate, practical view to how I work on things and I’m learning to be less of a perfectionist so that I can *get* *things* *done*. I’ve also been learning to give myself a lot more credit. Although I didn’t hit the career milestones that were expected of me at first, in a super nonlinear way, I’ve been building a strong career foundation for a young writer. I also feel myself walking into my purpose as a visionary and healing force. Right now I’m pretty much reparenting myself.” 

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