By now, most of us are so deep into lockdown that we don’t even know how deep into lockdown we are. The novelty (if there ever was any) of staying inside has well and truly worn off. You’ve discovered things about the neighbours you wish you hadn’t and Tesco is fresh out of stock of whatever you need. Plus, you’ve blown your daily exercise allowance to go to Tesco.
It’s no wonder you might be exhausted by the very idea of staying creative, especially when many of us will – biologically speaking – have gone into ‘survival mode’ as a result of our livelihoods being affected by the pandemic. But, that’s okay. In fact, it’s totally normal.
Let’s have a look at some of the issues we might be facing – and the ways that we can maintain our creativity despite them.
1) Find your inspiration in unlikely places
Over the first few days of lockdown, a few peers and I put together a ’30-day creative challenge’ in the form of an Instagram chat group and a daily prompt. We were a lovely mixed bunch – some singers, songwriters, dancers, painters – and we came up with some fabulous no-pressure art. There was one rule: that you must only participate if you feel like it! If the mood doesn’t take you and the creative juices aren’t a-flowing, sit out for as long as you need.
Whenever you force yourself to create, you’re only feeding bricks into the tension machine. It’s kind of like that Chicken Run scene when the pie-maker goes wrong…anyone?
Books and podcasts
Until lockdown, I had only read one book in the space of three years, and even that was called The Little Book of Mindfulness. It was a coffee table read that was essentially a picture book.
Hey, if you’re not a big reader, no problem – pick up the nearest book and flip to a random page. Don’t even try to interpret the author’s intention. Turn these few words into a story of your own if you’re a songwriter, or play along to another artist’s song that this sentence reminds you of. You are providing yourself with the opportunity to be inspired here and to open those very heavy brainy gates to chance!
Podcasts, whether you choose to listen to them in full or take snippets, are equally as beneficial. Your mind will be grateful to be fed anything that isn’t another woefully dull Zoom quiz with tight-lipped Great-Uncle Roger who can’t figure out how to unmute himself. If he has even got that far.
Draw whatever inspiration you can from exactly where you are
And, from where you are. By this, I mean from the place that we have all been plonked within global history. What we are experiencing at the moment may well be written about in our grandchildren’s science textbooks and here you are, dealing with history in the making like a pro!
Do you hold whimsical beliefs of humanity rising from the ashes like a massive phoenix after this is all over? Are you experiencing joy, fretfulness or anger as a direct result of remaining indoors? Did you watch a particularly moving news report or would you like to express disappointment at your government’s actions in a more constructive format than an angry sub-tweet? Well, there you have it. Your inspiration might just be closer than you think.
2) Motivation is fleeting and unreliable. Go with it
Find something you can do from the comfort of your bed
Alternatively, your sofa or anywhere comfy. I speak from experience when I say that you are probably currently wearing pyjama bottoms and a nice top, and looking forward to your next nap break (if you are not already in bed).
When you are sitting comfortably, grab any pen and some paper. I like to use my scrap paper bank statements as a lesson to Halifax for not automatically going paperless. That’ll teach ‘em. Now scribble! Doodle to your heart’s content, then fill in the gaps with colouring pencils if you have them. Now you are being comfy, creative and mindful without having to purchase a colouring book. Winner, winner, Quorn chicken dinner.
Let those who post the jammy story about their productive day cast the first unfollow
This needs no further explanation. However, I shall indulge and validate your motives further; if their content doesn’t serve you, ‘mute’ or ‘unfollow’. Comparison is irrelevant even at the best of times. Bad vibes, begone!
3) Pressure and perspective
Create a routine that works for you
Many reading this will see coursework deadlines fast approaching, others may face pernickety managers or scary debt repayments. Whatever the cause of the pressure you’re facing, it may look to be coming at you like a large army of chainmail medievals with spears and big horses. Fear not: change your perspective and they will become tiny ants on leaf-back.
What I’ve found to help is routine. For me, it’s a 7.30am alarm, a walk or run, a coffee, some lunch and then assignments. But what works for one person will likely not work for the next. Spend a few days trying to get into a flow by sleeping and waking at roughly the same time every day, assigning a part of your day for getting some fresh air, and arguably most importantly, sitting down to work at the same time (and same place) every day. Try to have a specific desk or tabletop to work from. Trick your brain into being creative!
You like spreadsheets? Me too. Mostly colouring them in. Once it looks good, I stick an A4 copy by my desk and never look at it again. All the goodness is in the process, you see – you lay out your workload, you colour it in, and this creates a big filing cabinet in your brain for compartmentalising your tasks. I’ve found this to be a big anxiety-alleviator.
Phone, phone, go away. Come back once I’ve started my day
Turn your phone off at night, and don’t turn it on again until you’ve had a chance to welcome the new day. Sit up in bed upon waking, make a mental note of one thing you’re looking forward to, have a little stretch and don’t turn your phone back on until it’s completely necessary. Give your brain a fighting chance to level itself before it’s bombarded with new information.
4) The resurfacing of old foes
Mindfulness and meditation
Sometimes, we sense an unwelcome guest emerging from the backs of our minds, especially when our attention is focused elsewhere. Our mental health issues are not above striking just as we begin to feel ‘normal’ again. Perhaps your anxiety is making a comeback, or you’ve been feeling especially down the last few weeks; there is no better time to make room for mental well-being in our daily routine than now.
Guided meditation is available on tap on YouTube and in many podcasts for whatever intention you may like to set for yourself. Whether you’d like to spend three minutes or thirty, steal a few moments – breathe – recalibrate. One meditation may not lead instantly to a fifteen-hour songwriting sesh, the fruits of which bear five number-one singles, but a little bit each day is progress, and progress is enough.
The overarching message…
Finally, a big thank you for committing your time to read such a long write-up. I do hope it has been somewhat enlightening and that you have discovered some new tactic for staying mindful and creative.
This is an extraordinary time – here is the word ‘unprecedented’ again – and what we ought to remember is that this is global. Everybody’s feeling it. All we can do is make an effort to embrace the boredom, learn to love the uncertainty and trust in our various processes whilst we remain safely at home. Here’s to at least having a bit of sun to look out on!
It’s important to remember that you’re never alone in these times. If you need support or advice during this lockdown – or you just want someone to talk to – our friendly and experienced Student Support Team is here to help. You can reach out via your college’s dedicated Student Support email or send us a DM across our social channels.