As artists, writers, makers, and entrepreneurs, we rely on our creativity and problem-solving abilities to make our businesses thrive. But what happens when that creativity falters? Having our creative wells run dry (or at least be shallow) isn’t unique to the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’ve certainly been experiencing this lack more during the public health emergency.
It makes sense, right? Creativity is often tied to having full life cups. When our lives are stable, and we’re well fed and cared for, we have extra energy to devote to creativity. Right now, many of us are missing out on these essentials. Looking out at the world, we’re facing more uncertainty, anxiety, and depression than many of us have experienced before. Our familiar routines have given way to the unfamiliar—not exactly a wellspring for creativity. Even the experiences we may draw upon to reignite our creativity, like going to a coffeeshop with a friend, are not possible in the same way right now.
Ever reliable memes report that Shakespeare produced his best work during self-isolation from the plague. If you’re like me, this meme just makes you feel guilty for not accomplishing a literary masterwork while I’m also worrying about how to feed my family. Here’s the truth though: Shakespeare worked throughout his life with the threat of plague. So, as we move toward a new normal in the time of COVID-19, we also need to try to find ways to spark our creativity.
Here are a few tips based on what’s been working for me:
We no longer expect the outside world to function as it once did (who would have thought we’d be in face masks waiting in line to get into the grocery store?), so don’t expect your creativity to work the same either. Try not to shame yourself if your creative process doesn’t flow as smoothly as it once did. That will only add to your anxiety. Once you’ve acknowledged that things are going to look a little different, I hope you give yourself grace.
As you’re able, I recommend moving forward with a discovery mindset. What will your creative process look like now? How will it be different? Become deeply fascinated with experimentation and turning failures into new approaches. Approaching creativity with the mindset of learning (not forcing a previous pattern that may no longer apply) may help you find your way to a new normal.
If you’re able and it is safe, go outside. A bit of fresh air can change your perspective and reinvigorate your creativity. This may mean taking your work outside for a change of scenery. Or you may want to set your work aside to spend a few minutes absorbed in nature. Either way, heading outside will help you return better than when you left.
Taking time away from your regularly scheduled programming can help you clean out the dusty corners and cobwebs of your creativity. If you’re a jeweler, trying baking cupcakes. A baker, try painting. A doctor, try scrapbooking. There’s likely something you’ve been dreaming of doing when you have the time, and now may be it. Just remember that taking on a personal project doesn’t mean you have to write the great American novel. There’s no pressure for perfection or completion. Your goal should be trying something different. Simply by showing up, you’ve succeeded.
I’m a great believer that creativity is physically locked in our bodies. Moving our bodies (or even moving our minds through mediation) makes creativity flow. During runs, I’ve overcome writer’s block, generated new story ideas, and found the perfect story structure for articles that have flummoxed me. I’ve also found founts of creativity in yoga, dance, and even kickboxing. If you can’t move outside right now, have a dance party in your kitchen. If you’re feeling low on energy, just stretch. Just move!
Since we can’t meet in person right now, call upon good ol’ Zoom or Google hangouts to create an online space to meet up with fellow creatives. You can have a set topic, question, or problem you’re working on, or just check in to see how each other are doing. If you’re tired of rehashing COVID-19, here’s 50 questions you can ask each other.
How are you maintaining and sparking your creativity during COVID-19? Share your ideas with me at hello [at] how to pitch media [dot] com.