How To Be Creative During Uncertain Times

Life continues to be weird. Seriously, how many more blog posts am I going to open this way?!

In order to limit distractions and to hopefully get a little work done, I’ve come up with some guidelines that I wanted to share with you. This blog could have been called Productivity Tip For Surviving an Apocalypse, but I think How To Be Creative During Uncertain Times reads a little better, no?

Without further ado, here are three simple ways to stay sane, happy, and creative — right now!

Limit your expose to the news

I don’t mean that you have to be ignorant about what is going on in the world, but you also don’t need to check the news every thirty minutes or even every day. Honestly, you could probably get away with checking it once a week. If any massive announcements are made, chances are you’ll find out about it through social media, your family, friends, or some other incidental source.

Here’s the thing, you don’t actually need to know how many people died in China today. You also don’t need to read soft-news pieces that detail one individual’s financial hardship.

This information will not enrich your life or make you more ‘prepared’, it will just distract and distress you.  

Yes, it is important to be empathetic, but how will reading these types of news stories help you?

This is especially important if you are feeling lost, overwhelmed and/or experiencing a lack of control.

Exposing yourself to excessive amounts of news will only exasperate these feelings.

Break up the routine

This point could be applied to your writing routine or your daily routine in general. As I mentioned in a recent Instagram post, anxiety and depression are the result of stagnant thought patterns or loops. The best way to break this pattern and to create new neural pathways in your brain is to mix up your routine.

Now that most of us no-longer have to commute to work, attend social gatherings, or certain professional events, we have a lot more time up our sleeves.

You don’t have to go to bed at 9 pm or wake at 5 am, but you can if you want to.

Now is a great time to experiment with your writing routine.

If you normally write in the morning, trying writing late at night or vice versa. Depending on your living situation, you could also experiment with writing in different locations around your home: couch, kitchen table, back verandah, bed, bath — throw caution to the wind my friend!

You can also break up your routine by changing the structure of your day. If you normal work out in the morning, try the afternoon. Go for a walk through a different part of your neighbourhood. Cook a different recipe.

If you have a strict morning routine where you journal, meditate, go for a walk, and then drink a cup of tea, trying mixing things up – even if it is only the order of the events.

By shaking things up, you are breaking the thought patterns that can lead to feelings of boredom, restlessness, fatigue, overwhelm and yes, anxiety and depression. (Insert obvious disclaimer). 

Make more art

I will admit that I am just as distracted as everybody else is right now. I have had good writing days and bad writing days, but here’s the thing, those good writing days are brilliant. For two hours, I don’t have to think about the pandemic or the long-term ramifications of the global lockdown.

If you find yourself wondering, “what is the point in making art during a pandemic?”, check out my recent blog here.

Making art is a form of expression, but it is also a form of escapism.

Hard writing days are hard: we are all too aware of ourselves and the fact that our work isn’t working. But there is still value in the activity, at the very least it is giving us something to focus on.

There is something really satisfying about engaging with a challenge, working through a puzzling plot hole, and shaping a piece until it eventually resembles our original intention for it.

On good writing days, we ceased to exist because we enter the work so fully.

While having lunch with my partner the other day, we found ourselves discussing the pandemic, rehashing the same concerns: how long will this go on for? Are the numbers tapering off? What is the latest update?

Like many of you, eighty percent of my conversations wind-up being about the pandemic. How could they not?

So, when I return to the desk and resume my work, whether that be writing or research, it feels like a sweet relief.

I can’t control what is happening during this health crisis, I can’t control this lockdown, but I can have some control over my creative process.

I know that things are weird and unstable at the moment. Some of us are out of jobs, some of us are navigating around working from home for the first time, some of us are worried about our health or that of family and friends – I get it!

This is an unprecedented time, so go easy on yourself. Do what you can, set realistic expectations (or no expectations), work, rest, play with your dog, get a little sun and drink a little tea … or whiskey.

This will all be over soon, and hopefully you’ll have some tidy little chapters done at the end of it, and a whole new appreciation of café culture!


 

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Why Writing Fiction Matters

A global lockdown could be the best time to write or the worst.

Maybe you’re loving the fact that you don’t have to run errands or attend physical meetings. Maybe you’re hating the sudden change to your routine; the fact that everyone is home, and that your finances have been upended.

I’m a member of a private writing group on Facebook that has approximately 5,000 members; recently, someone posted about how they were struggling to write during this uncertain time and they wanted to know how everyone else was going.

Some authors shared that they had to put current projects aside because of their subject matter (climate change/global collapse/apocalypse), others were ‘on and off’, having both good days and bad, while other confirmed that their lives were largely unchanged and that their life was carrying on as normal (mostly).

If you fall into one of the first two camps, I am sure you’ve had at least some of the following thoughts: What is the point in writing? The world doesn’t need my story. My story can’t make this situation better, so writing it is a waste of time.

Here’s the things guys, this situation is not going to last forever. Thankfully.

If you are struggling with any kind of hardship, writing will be difficult.

If you are experiencing financial uncertainty, if you or your family is sick, or working in high-risk occupations, then writing will be difficult right now.

Of course, it’s hard to write your novel if you aren’t sure how you’re going to pay your rent.

If you can relate to any of these scenarios, then go easy on yourself.

Do what you can, when you can, and if you can’t write because other things need your attention (*cough, cough* Centrelink *cough*cough*) or because you’re consumed with worry about [X], then that’s okay.

Life is weird right now. Don’t hold yourself to your normal standards.

However, if you fall into the latter camp and your life is relatively stable, and yet you too are grappling with these questions of validity, here’s some thoughts that may help you.

How would you feel if the book industry collapsed, Amazon folded, and libraries shut their doors? How would you feel if all the novels that lined your bookshelf disappeared? Would you be willing to live in a world that didn’t have any books?

I am guessing no.

So, why is that? What do books give you that is so valuable you wouldn’t be willing to live without them?

Books have all kinds of functions.

They offer entertainment, and provide insight.

They make you feel something.

They teach you stuff.

They articulate thoughts, feelings, and experiences that you have had, but didn’t know how to put into words.

You meet people who are just like you and nothing like you.

You get to walk around in someone else’s world and live through their problems with no responsibility to solve them.

Books do lots of things, just as all art does lots of things.

Our need to make art, to tell stories, to perform, and to create music is ancient.

We write stories in order to process events and circumstances around us. We write stories because a topic has intrigued us, it keeps us awake at night, and we want to know more.

In times of crisis, artists often wonder, what is the point? But the thing is, if you stop making art, how will future generation know what our collective and/or cultural attitudes were? How will they know what we were thinking or feeling?

I am all for art for arts sake, but if you need a ‘legitimate’ reason, a full-blown permission slip in order to write your story, here it is: Art is a record.

Your stories, regardless of their content, are a part of history.

Maybe you’ll only sell 100 copies of your book, but that’s okay. Maybe your novel won’t influence the zeitgeist or become the poster child of an era, but so what?

The world needs your stories anyway, happy or sad, in good times and bad.

There’s no shame in creating art. The only shame would be if we all came out of lockdown and you were left thinking, ‘but wait! I actually wanted some extra time to finish this story!’

This lockdown won’t last forever, but if you want to make the most of this time, then start now. Set a word count, dedicate an afternoon, make a mini-goal and pick out a reward for when you are done.

All progress is good progress.

Art has a purpose. Whatever purpose you want to give it.


GRAB A FREE COPY OF SEVEN WAYS TO STAY MOTIVATED AS A WRITER

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While you’re here, be sure to join my email newsletter and gain instant access to your FREE downloadable copy of the Seven Ways to Stay Motivated as a Writer. Plus, you’ll receive my weekly newsletter straight to your inbox every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog/vlog, updates and other exclusive content that I ONLY share via email.