In our new viral-normal, it can sometimes be challenging to give free reign to creativity. I have found myself with much more free time in recent months (thanks to no work commute), but have little to show for it in terms of words on the page (though I did make 2 dozen face-masks and a quilt).
In her Getting Unstuck post last week, Kay gave some great suggestions for how to keep your story going when you’ve hit a wall, but what if the problem is not that you’ve reached a sticking point in your story, but that you’re stuck in reality.
Conveniently, I ran across a couple of posts in my news feed, as well as a list from work, that may be helpful.
First is a post from Janice Hardy’s Fiction University entitled Why You Can’t Concentrate Right Now. In a nutshell (you can read the article for the details) concentration can be challenging for folks right now because our brains are busy keeping an eye out for threats and maintaining a level of hyper alertness. If your brain is busy managing the Bodily Intruder Alert Command Center, it makes sense that there may be little bandwidth left over for creative pursuits. So, I take that to mean that my lack of creativity is not because I’m lazy or that I’m too busy perfecting my pastry-making skills, but because my brain is busy making contingency plans to address potential death and economic collapse.
Makes sense to me.
Next is a post, also from Janice Hardy’s Fiction University, entitled Writing in the Time of Covid-19. It offers several suggestions for things you can do to jump start your creativity during these uncertain times (or basically at any time). The suggestions aren’t rocket science, but they are good reminders especially the last one, “don’t beat yourself up.”
Last is a list of suggestions courtesy of my day job. When my coworkers and I started working remotely back in March, our work-from-home packets included a lot of information, including a list of common sense things we could to do remain motivated and productive.
Establish a schedule
This first one is critical when working remotely, especially for people who have never worked remotely before. From the day job perspective, establishing a schedule means starting work at a regular time and making sure to stop at a regular time too. From a creativity perspective, establishing a schedule can mean setting a regular time and/or place for creative pursuits and sticking to it.
Eat Healthy and Exercise
We were just talking on today’s morning call about the hazard of an “easily accessible refrigerator” when working remotely. My working from home has included far more baked goods that it should and definitely more coffee than it should. My own bad behavior aside, healthy eating can leave you with more energy and increase your resilience, as can making time for exercise. I currently have access to daily virtual-workouts, courtesy of my gym. They are only 30 minute sessions, but I can definitely tell that I am more focused and have more energy on days when I am able to fit one of the sessions in my schedule. I have also found that my evening walk at the local park is a great way to turn off the day job portion of my brain and to get away from the news and internet.
Limit Social Media and News
Speaking of the news and internet, we all know what a time-suck both can be and that is true now more than ever. Setting aside a specific time to read the news or surf the web or whatever, and then moving on to something else can do wonders, both for your mental health and for your creativity. Full disclosure: I am still working on this one.
Make Time for Self-Care
This is the item we most frequently get reminders about at work, possibly since many people have been working long long days for months now and are getting burned out. For me, this means scheduling a “day off” this Friday (baby steps), painting my toenails blue this afternoon, and listening to one of the guided meditations on the Calm app later this evening. Your mileage may vary.
Whether you’re working or writing or just handling daily life, taking a little time to give your brain a rest is a good thing. For me this means jigsaw puzzles and old Ngaio March mysteries. For others it may mean going on a hike, working in the garden, or a rousing game of fetch with the dog. Whatever you choose to do, taking a little time to unwind can leave you refreshed and better able to face whatever task is next on your schedule.
Connect with Others
Connecting with others can be challenging if you are sheltering-in-place, but it is definitely worth the effort. Humans are basically social animals and even a card-carrying introvert like myself needs social connections from time to time. Fortunately apps like Zoom and FaceTime make it reasonably easy to have “face to face” conversations with friends and family. I’ve been having weekly video calls with family and they have been great. It’s very helpful to get out of my own head for at least a little while and interact (virtually) with someone else.
These suggestions aren’t going to instantly make you more motivated and creative, but they may help you put the current pandemic into a more manageable mental space and leave you better able to focus on more creative pursuits.
So, what else should I add to this list?