Community·Q&A

CreativeMornings speaker Nathan Hall on embracing stress and finding strength

On Friday, Aug. 28, Hall will discuss his relationship with stress and creativity. He will also explore how racism and discrimination cause stress, and how navigating these systems requires a lot of creativity.

CBC Ottawa is proud to partner with CreativeMornings Ottawa

Nathan Hall will speak about how racism and discrimination cause stress and how navigating these systems requires creativity on Friday, Aug. 28 with CreativeMornings Ottawa. (Jennifer Bernard)

There's a lot of stress that comes with living through a global pandemic.

We're all trying to cope and make sense of this new normal (even saying that is starting to get old) while managing our stress creating some semblance of balance.

But it's hard.

And it puts our creativity to the test.

With chapters in more than 200 cities around the world — from Oslo to Ottawa — CreativeMornings hosts free, monthly events for the creative community. Each month's talk has a global theme, such as: courage, honesty or tradition.


Ottawa has been hosting gatherings since May 2012, welcoming speakers from such varied occupations as psychologists, architects, artisanal sign painters and brew masters. Since March 2020, CreativeMornings Ottawa has moved the conversation online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CreativeMornings Ottawa explores this theme with August speaker and Simple Story CEO Nathan Hall. On Friday, Aug. 28, Hall will discuss his relationship with stress and creativity. He will also explore how racism and discrimination cause stress, and how navigating these systems requires a lot of creativity.

CBC Ottawa asked Hall a few questions by email in advance of this CreativeMornings Ottawa virtual event. Want to hear more from Hall? Tickets to this free talk are available here.

CBC Ottawa is proud to partner with CreativeMornings Ottawa to share creative Q&As and conversations with the community. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

How does creativity play a role in your life and career?

When people think of creativity, they tend to think of things like painting, literature, music. To me, creativity is all about taking what is inside my head and getting inside of yours. The space between my starting point and your ending point is art; it is creativity, and that can take an infinite number of forms. Pursuing many traditional creative paths growing up helped me to see beyond the world as it was presented to me, and gave me tools to present to the world according to how I saw it. This was all accentuated by the isolation that I experienced from being a visible minority.

I became used to operating in spaces where I was the only one who looked like me, thought like me, or had my contextual framework. Navigating these spaces takes creativity. Thriving in these spaces takes resilience.

For me, a big challenge has always been having the confidence to fight for my vision when no one else sees it, but the reality of being a Black man in a white space meant that I was continually thrust into positions where people did not see my value, let alone my vision. My successes thus far continue to give me the resilience and confidence to think bigger and to know that my thoughts are not too big for me to handle.

What's one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you could tell your younger self when you were feeling stressed?

Embrace the stress. Adversity brings strength, creativity and character, if you allow it.

During these dips, it forces you to take a hard look at everything you're doing. It enables you to form habits and learn to tap into greater strength. The storms that are sent our way may be tough to endure, but something bigger is happening; it is preparing you for your next season.

Sometimes the place where we find ourselves is not where we want to be, but I believe that we are all equipped to be able to handle all of the stresses that are sent our way. In the end, it all works out, everything is going to be alright.

How does stress affect your creativity?

Stress is a great source of creative influence, however there is the risk of stress being pushed to excess at which point it can become debilitating.

Learning your threshold is key. I find that prolonged stress typically has a greater negative impact than short bursts of high stress. Though, I have also come to realize that when push comes to shove and I am thrust into situations without choice, my perceived thresholds are far more conservative than expected.

While I can't say that I like being under stress, I do acknowledge that I have learned to manage it and navigate it well, increasing my capacity and tolerance with each year.

When you get stuck creatively — and stressed out — what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?

Give myself space. Going for a walk or a run is the best way for me to clear my head. It helps me to refocus my thoughts and gain creative inspiration. I could be racking my brain for hours on something and get nowhere, but when I let myself wonder as I take in the scenes of my route, everything just tends to click.

Why do you think it's important to have this conversation around the theme of "stress" in Ottawa?

The global pandemic is obviously front of mind for all of us. What are we doing for our kids regarding school? When is the second wave coming? Is my job secure? As a society, our collective stress levels went up.

It is often the prolonged stress that can be the most detrimental, so as quarantine and social distancing persist, it is important that we transition from the "duct taped" solutions that we implemented for ourselves at the beginning of all of this, with longer term solutions that aren't crafted around just getting by and surviving, but thriving given this new reality.


Visit the CreativeMornings Ottawa Facebook page or creativemornings.com/ott to find out more about upcoming events.

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