Creating during Lockdown
Here we are again.
New year, new lockdown, new... writer? Yes I'm taking over for Nathan today as he's caught up in the valiant efforts to keep our country running. Instead you've got me, Marcus, not as gifted with the pen (keyboard?) as your usual, but I'll sure give it a go!
Like many of you, I'm housebound and thumbs have near been twiddled to stumps. You would have thought that being a creative by nature, there was no end to the potential of what could be 'done' with a day, but after many months of career invalidation, isolation and lack of support, fatigue does begin to set in. There's only so many one-person projects that you can embark on! Now I don't mean for this post to be a drag, we've had enough negativity as it is, so instead I'm going to lay out below a few constructive ways that we as artists can continue to create, keep ourselves entertained and look after our mental health whilst we wait for the industry to recover. Because recover it will! If there's one thing that the entertainment industry has, it's resilience. Actors careers are built off of the back of rejection, with a "yes" often being interspersed by a few hundred "no's", and stories will always need tellers. So, with that as the wind in our sails lets embark on a quest to stay afloat. (Too many metaphors?)
1. Not everything is/should be a project.
If you're anything like me, you usually have several creative things on the go at the same time, and this might be an odd way to start a list about helping people create, but making sure you're not turning everything into your life into a creative outlet can sometimes be the key to focusing that energy. In addition to that, not every idea that comes into your head should be pursued. I'd recommend putting every idea somewhere, whether that's in a journal, word document, iPhone note or otherwise, because the act of writing down those thoughts helps your brain let go of them. By temporarily letting go, it encourages new ideas to come in and the distance allows you to more objectively review which ones are worthwhile when you come back to them.
2. Finding inspiration
For others, new ideas are difficult to come by. Nathan already covered some pretty good points in his blog: 6 Ways to Get Over Writer's Block, but during lockdown we can find it pretty difficult to find things to inspire us. My solution? Forget new ideas, improve old ones! Try things you've always wanted to but never had the excuse. Similarly to the last point, if you've had ideas lying around that never saw the light of day, what can you do with them now you've had additional experience and have a bunch of time on your hands? And don't tell me you've got no previous work, because it simply isn't true. Even if it's an odd writing exercise about monsters on holiday hidden away in your year 2 primary school bookbag, I can guarantee that everyone has a creative project that can be used, improved on and serve as a source of inspiration. Not only will your younger self thank you, but whether its from 3 or 30 years ago there's always a great deal of satisfaction to upcycling or repurposing work that is authentically yours.
3. Staying motivated
One of the hardest things that lockdowns bring upon us is a feeling of helplessness and low mental health. There are already plenty of internet resources out there to aid with that, so I would recommend that before you try and create, you stop and take care of yourself first. Again I am guilty of burrowing into projects to distract myself from life's struggles and whilst it might provide some temporary relief it will contribute to that fatigue I was talking about earlier. It may feel patronizing but we have to be honest with ourselves. Have you done the basics today? Had enough sleep, eaten, drunk water etc. Like I said, there are already enough self-help resources for you to use, but it's important that before we attempt to create we are in a place that facilitates it.
Once we are ready, to borrow a now classic meme: JUST DO IT! DON'T LET YOUR DREAMS BE DREAMS. The beauty of this moment in time is that failure our best tool for success. It can be tempting to make things for others approval, especially with the never ending stream of social media creators, but when you create, do it for you. If something isn't working, move on. The only bar for how successful something is should be how close it is to the vision you had in your minds eye and if it takes 101 versions before it gets to the way you wanted it, no-one has to see the things that came before!
Working on creative projects and setting goals for yourself is a really great way to keep yourself entertained and bring a sense of structure back into your life. During the last lockdown, I undertook the rather hilarious task of teaching myself to scream and growl like a metal singer. Not only did it have me laughing on a daily basis, but there was a deep sense of satisfaction when I achieved it and was able to move my creative project forward. I promise you, if you make the decision to keep progressing your work, no matter how small the steps you take you will get there.
4. Collaborating with others from home
Often our visions are bigger than we can handle by ourselves and we need others to help make it happen. It might be that we're lacking the skill or resources, or maybe just the task itself by nature requires more than one person. Whatever it is, collaboration on creative works can be difficult when we're separated.
First thing's first, find the right person to share your vision with. Someone might have exactly what you need to achieve your goal, but if they don't share your vision it can become an uphill battle, especially when everyone is juggling home-working, their own projects and existential crisis'. So make sure you find people who are as passionate as you to make it happen. That way you can entrust them with your project, knowing that their individual talent will contribute to and not take away from your vision.
When it comes to the nuts and bolts of collaborating via the internet, there really isn't a one size fits all solution. You may have to apply a bit of meta-creativity (get creative about how you can get creative together) in order to solve your isolation woes. It might not be possible to play instruments live, but can successive mixes be sent back and forth on google drive? (Unintentional rhyming). Your clay modeler can't dress the armature, but you can ask for measurements and post them finished costume. No matter how difficult it may seem, or how unconventional your work, with a bit of head-scratching there will be a way to get things done. Another upside to the current situation is that many other creatives are sat around wishing they can be involved in projects, so don't be afraid to ASK. I personally have spoken to some rather successful people I wouldn't have dreamed of bothering before, simply because they aren't as busy and they're up for at least providing me advice. Give it a go!
5. Money and self worth
Finally I wanted to focus on something a little more down to earth. (Another unintentional rhyme, what can I say, I'm a lyricist!)
I hope this doesn't come across too preachy, but I often find that our sense of self-worth as artists, rightly or wrongly, is heavily tied to whether someone is paying us for our craft. As much as I appreciate and value those who are literally saving lives at the moment, the term "Key-worker" upsets me a little, as it carries with it the presupposition that those outside of that workforce, are not "Key". This only adds fuel to the fire against vocational validity artists worldwide have always fought for, and when combined with our current financial difficulties, makes a real mess.
So let me start by saying, your craft is valued and appreciated. Whatever type of artwork you make, you are contributing to a rich tapestry of global culture and your work, because it is work, is key.
Key to helping others identify with or deal with their issues and emotions, key to providing enjoyment and entertainment, key to causing others to stop and reflect on their own lives. Money is always going to be a driving force in getting things made, but it doesn't have to be the only one, and whether you're getting paid top dollar or working off your own back, the stuff you make is just as valid.
Even if for now you need to take 'muggle' work to keep you on your feet, you're still a creative, so keep jotting down those ideas until the right time comes.