A room on one’s own: creativity in times of crisis

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The British lockdown is now fully underway due to rising cases of Covid-19, and many of us are back home feeling somewhat discombobulated. The Easter break is usually a busy time spent revising, doing last minute summatives, and eating some well-deserved chocolate. Not being able to catch up with friends or even go to the library, however, puts a bit of a dampener on things.

As we’re stuck inside for the greater good and the foreseeable future, what better time than now to hone your creative skills? Sure, a feeling of postmodern Armageddon is upon us, but, luckily, I’ve compiled a quick list of ways to keep those creative juices flowing:

  1. Routine

Sticking to a productive sleep and work schedule is something we all struggle with at times. Look at being home now as a reset period, where you can be your best self. Life hasn’t stopped just because lectures have.

Schedule in some creative time, get out that planner your aunt gave you for Christmas and actually carve out space in your day to do things. Make sure you have a mixture of work, fun, and creative things – variety is the spice of life, and if the Coronavirus means Tesco’s sold out of paprika then it might be the only spice we have left.

And please, get dressed, Leo Tolstoy didn’t write Anna Karenina sitting round in a pair of crusty Adidas tracksuit bottoms.

   2. Active body, active mind

Time for the hard truth: the more you lounge around the harder it is to stop. Think of body and mind as having a symbiotic relationship; exercise will stimulate you mentally, it releases endorphins, and as a bonus, it will help you to maintain that Durham bum you got from walking up and down the hill every day.

Even if you hate exercise, flexibility-based workouts like yoga can be done in the privacy of your bedroom. If this doesn’t appeal to you, whip out those Jimmy’s dance moves you were saving for next term and get out some of that pent-up energy.

Just physically doing something will help you to restart and re-engage.

      3. Change of (s)pace

The novelty of being home can wear off quickly. But being at home for an undefined period of time, with no guarantee of when you’ll next be able to make pasta in the middle of the night without judgement from your parents? Nightmare.

When it gets dull, don’t revert to scrolling TikTok or Instagram. The weather’s warming up, so sit outside if you’re lucky enough to have a garden or balcony. The Romantic poets were onto something there about nature, and Claude Monet had Giverny for a reason.

If you can’t physically go anywhere, create a dedicated workspace in your house which you can begin to associate with productivity.

       4. Learning new skills

Hit a mental block with writing or reading? Try painting or sketching – engage a different part of your brain. It doesn’t matter if you’re the world’s worst painter, sometimes the only way to stay in the game is to participate.

There’s some glaring irony in the term “still life” in times like these, but as Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt painted masterpieces of domestic settings from the confines of their own homes, there’s no reason you can’t give it a go.

Don’t have the materials? Shops closed due to global pandemic? Download a drawing app, try out Adobe Photoshop, or take an online masterclass. You might end up with something you can add to your CV, or, even better, find you have a hidden talent for making cat memes.

       5. Incentives

Find a poetry competition you want to submit work to, or kickstart your webcomic career. Hold yourself accountable for working on your art. This one is really for those of us who are workaholics and never really learned how to have fun, but that’s an issue for another time.

Look at the creators online whose work you love; graphic designers, calligraphers, artists, musicians. Look for inspiration on the increasingly vast internet in lieu of the great outdoors.

All in all, it’s important to remember that there isn’t one right way to be creative, and it’s not even really about the end product. Demotivation and creative blocks are very real but are things we should challenge head on in times like these. Shakespeare wrote some of his best work cooped up inside – don’t let the virus grind you down!

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