Photo by ariq sulaiman on Unsplash
Many of us have been creating in isolation since the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year. Some people have been producting all kinds of music, art or writing while others have been feeling stuck because of the uncertanity of the times.
As the pandemic ebbs and flows, there's no doubt about it, at least for the forseeable future, COVID-19 and it's variants will continiue to plague many of our lives for awhile. How can we get past the often scary and unpredictable virus mentally, physically and emotionally and get on with our creative lives if it has us stuck.
Here's a few ideas to help you adapt and move forward with your creativity during these times::
Mentally and Emotionally
The biggest hurdle is to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the possiblity of future quarantines or at least working in isolation for awhile.
-Ground yourself: Whether it's Prayer, meditation, or other Mindfulness practices., practice a daily ritual to help you keep anxiety at bay. Find a way to get still and focus on yoiur well-being.
-Be gentle with yourself. This new reality many of us are living is challenging. Don't get hard on yourself if you don't feel like creating right now. Allow yourself time to relax, rest and reflect, if need be. Disenage from the "grind" culture of producing, no matter what your peers are doing. Work at a pace, if anything, that works for you. If a few months or weeks are unproductive, give yourself compassion, not pity or anger. We are all working through this the best way we can.
Move your body at least once a day whether it's walking, dancing, exercise, yoga, etc. Do what makes you feel good without over doing it. Movement releases tension, anxietiy and stress that can weigh on the body and create blockages to our creativity.
Spend time outside in nature, whether it's a daily walk, hiking or another activity such as grabbing lunch outdoors, doing nature sketching, or meditating. Consider bring the outdoors inside such as plants and flowers to decorate your space. Nature can provide a feeling of calmness and help bring equanimitiy to your daily life.
Physical Space: Go through all of your studio materials and sell or dispose of stuff. you don't need. Create a storage system for your supplies that makes it easier to retrieve and put a way when finished with your creative practice. Your creative space will feel lighter and more inspiring to create as well as bring a positive energy to the place.
Mental Space: What's holding you back from your creative practice mentally? How can you clear out the negative messages so you can hold yourself accountable? Work with some affirmations about your creative goals and intentions and keep them handy. Review your schedule and see what things are a priority and what may need to go. Practice some of the grounding activities above to help gain insight. Schedule time with a therapist, a coach or someone you can talk to about anything in your life that you have difficulty letting go of for a more peaceful, creative life. Make to-do lists for creative activities daily or weekly so it can be added as a priority.
Reach Out and Touch Someone: Virtually
If connecting to other artists, writers or creatives is not safe or possible, work on establishing relationships online. Sign up for creative co-working sessions with others, participate in online writing/poetry open mics and other art critiques/sharing opportunities. If you are on social media, establish some relationships with other creatives online that you admire or have shown interest in iyour work. Collaborate with other creatives on projects or get involve with an art swap. Join or start a virtual book club for creatives. The sense of community can be built beyond four walls and can invite rich social experiences as well.
Professional Development for Creatives
Are there workshops, trainings, etc., that you always wanted to attend? Do you have a passion for writing poetry and would like guidance? How about a new art making technique? What about an creativity building or Artist's Way Group to help with some inspiration? If you can afford it, this is a time to discover oir add to your creative skills without a lot of distractions and meet others doing the same thing as well. If finances are a little slim, try listening to podcasts for creatives, checking out YouTube videos on art techniques as alternatives to formal online courses and trainings.
Experiment with Social Media
Social media can be an asset or a liability during these times. If you want to reach more people with your work, try a social media platform that you are not familiiar with or haven't tried. Find ways to bring attention to you work using videos, photos, live broadcasts and other methods. Or it may be a time to review what you are using as platforms and focus on what's working best and delete those that are not working well
Remember this season of our lives is difficult for everyone. As we learn more about COVID-19 and how it will affect us, know that being gentle with your creative cycle and staying healthy is the most important thing. Use your intuition as you move forward and connect with others for help and support as much as possible.
Feel free to share other ideas on how you have been moving through the pandemic creatively below.
Many popular theories about creativity break the process into stages. The most mysterious of these intervals is incubation. Over the years, psychological studies and real life breakthroughs have come to suggest the best ways to use this step.
In general, creative thinking starts when you identify an issue and prepare to tackle it. Next, you hit an impasse and decide to take a break. Then, the answer comes to you while you’re taking a shower or getting up from a nap.
That productive rest period before the Eureka moment is called incubation.
Guiding Principles for Effective Incubating
Prepare carefully. This is the time to do your research and engage in critical thought. Figure out the challenge you want to solve and state it precisely.
Plan ahead. Incubation is more effective when you remind yourself that you’ll be returning to your dilemma later. Look forward to coming back feeling refreshed and full of new answers.
Slow down. Think about coming to a gradual stop rather than slamming on the brakes. Allow your body and mind to quiet down. Take a few deep breaths. Relax your neck and shoulders. Observe your thoughts without pursuing them.
Choose non-demanding activities. If you spend your break studying calculus or the Peloponnesian War, it’ll be difficult to get anything else done. Devote your time to routine tasks that require little thought.
Let your mind wander. Relax and let your thoughts flow. Free yourself from any expectations and see what happens.
Play more. Clowning around stimulates your imagination. Lighten up and have a good laugh.
Keep it brief. You may find that the results you want are already close at hand. Short breaks often work better than taking a whole day off. Take it easy for about a half hour.
Appreciate the value of sleep. REM sleep unleashes creativity in amazing ways. When you dream, you form associations and consolidate memories. You’re able to see things differently and spot new opportunities.
Practical Strategies to Encourage Incubation
Take a nap. Get work done while you sleep. You’re likely to perform better after you lie down for 15 or 20 minutes.
Keep a journal by your bed. If your day job keeps you on your feet, make the most of your overnight slumbers. Have a pen and paper handy to jot down your thoughts when you wake up in the wee hours.
Meditate daily. Meditation and sleep have similar effects on the brain. Carve out five minutes to sit down and calm your mind.
Play with kids. Cut back on weekend appointments so you can spend time goofing around with your kids. Toss a Frisbee or throw a tea party.
Get a dog. If you sometimes get too busy to remember to play, a dog will help you get back on track. They like sharing their toys.
Exercise outdoors. Connecting with nature always helps. Break out your ice skates or bathing suit depending on the season.
Develop a new hobby. Lots of great artists and scientists have engaged in pastimes that created an atmosphere conducive to their accomplishments. For example, Emily Dickinson baked cakes. You may get inspired doing needlework or repairing clocks.
Clean house. Just doing the laundry or vacuuming the living room carpet may reveal your inner talents. Find chores at work and home that keep your hands busy and your mind free.
When it comes to triggering creative insights, not all rest is created equal. If you want to boost your creativity, make time to play and harness the power of your dreams. You’ll be surprised with the incredible payoff.