For some people, the first coronavirus lockdown was creative manna from heaven. They were gifted time they didn’t previously have to write, paint, make, and do.
Poetry poured from every online orifice, art shops sold out of painting kits, and literary agency submissions surged from March to May.
But for many others – like me – lockdown effectively turned off the creative tap. My tinkling well of ideas dried up, and writing anything new took on the sense of a long, sticky slug through treacle.
We hear so much about adverse circumstances being just what was needed to spark a mind’s Big Creative Idea.
We hear much less about minds that are compelled to concentrate on the dreary business of surviving each boring-yet-somehow-at-the-same-time-dread-filled day, without completely losing the plot.
I read a wonderful book during Lockdown 1 (A Gentleman in Moscow, if you’re interested) from which I kept recalling the same quote: “if a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.”
And with Lockdown 2 about to take hold, I wanted to stop my mind from plummeting into the same dusty trap as it had done the first time.
So, here’s what I’m doing (and what you can do, too) to “master my circumstances” … or in other words, keep going when the creative chips are down.
1. Choose six bite-sized creative tasks
When I say ‘bite-sized’, I mean something creative that you could easily do in half an hour… which is – crucially – an unintimidating amount of time.
My own tasks include tackling a creative writing exercise from one of the many books I’ve got on my shelves.
Another involves breaking out my acrylic paints, and working on the canvas I started (and abandoned) last year. A third is to write the first verse of a poem, and a fourth is to read two chapters of whatever book I’m reading, or starting a new one.
For your own list, try thinking about all the creative ideas you’ve wanted to try out, but have never got around to starting… online dance lessons, for example, or sketching a self-portrait.
2. Create a chart, and assign a number (or a colour) to each task
The reason you need six creative tasks is because you’re going to assign each one a number, or a colour, that you’ll find on each side of a die.
(I’ve got a coloured die, so red is the creative writing exercise, yellow is the poem, and so on.)
Create a chart of your tasks and their assigned number or colour, then stick it on the wall, or keep it easily to hand.
3. When you feel a creative block taking hold, roll the die!
Now you’ve got an easy tool to help you tackle those times when your creative brain feels like a stuck record.
Simply set a timer for the aforementioned half an hour (I use an antique sand timer, but hey, that’s just me) and get going.
Note: as someone who hates being told what to do – even when it’s me telling myself! – and who is also royally rubbish at sticking to schedules, there’s something appealing about the process of rolling a die, and letting its random outcome dictate the next thirty minutes of my life.
So far, it’s going well.
What are you doing to be or stay creative during Lockdown 2? If you want to get writing, you could do worse than join my newly opened Writing Gym… a safe, friendly and private Facebook group in which you can flex your writing muscle with confidence.
It’s free to join, and there will be some regular guided writing sessions to help you stay on track.
See you there?
I'm a friendly and professional writer, reviewer and editor who works with warmth, humour and flexibility.
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