Ways to Stay Creative in Quarantine
So… you’re stuck inside, possibly trying to work from home. Ever since this crisis began its been a hard time for us creatives. But just because this is a world changing event that will probably be the single biggest event of our lifetimes, doesn’t mean we can’t use this time at home in lockdown, quarantine, self-isolation, whatever you want to call it – to be creative.
The problem is that being creative in a time like this can be extremely difficult. Most creative people rely on a certain level of decent mental health, a lot of us often channel our emotional state into our creative output and when that state is in a negative one, it can be hard to have the energy let alone the actual creative drive to write, shoot or develop any idea. For me at least I personally feel the myth of the “tortured artist” is a very damaging one that develops the idea that we as creatives need to be in some form of depression in order to be creative when it’s actuall
y quite the opposite. But that is a discussion for another time – today I’m going to talk about our current situation.
We’re stuck inside in quarantine and it’s driving us all slowly insane. But there is a solution, getting creative can help our mental state by helping us break out of what psychologists and cognitive therapists call “negative behaviours”, behaviours that circle us back into a depressive state and enhance other parts of the depressive cycle creating a dangerous feedback loop. Being creative allows us to feel a sense of accomplishment in our creations and ideas, which can break our negative patterns by learning what inspires us and makes us feel better.
Then how can you be creative while self-isolating or stuck in quarantine. It’s a lot easier than ever before in the modern era with a hundred things at your fingertips, but some of these ideas don’t even require that. And each of these will come with actionable steps to take to directly boost your creative workflow while stuck in quarantine. Let’s begin!
We have in our hands, the sum collective knowledge of the entirety of human history and now more than ever it’s easy to find something to inspire your creativity. Creativity doesn’t come out of no-where we are inspired by the things we watch, listen to, read – every person who ever wrote a novel or screenplay was inspired by those that came before them. Every photographer, cinematographer or filmmaker was inspired by the artists that came before them.
Find your platform of choice where creatives thrive. My suggestions include platforms such as Skillshare or for completely free, YouTube. As a search-based video platform it is an excellent resource for finding over a decade and a half’s worth of creations by other people. Find several creatives who came before you and learn from them, study what they’ve done, how they inspire you and take that inspiration to the page with you. Every creative will take what they’ve learned and put their spin on it, which is why even direct tutorials can help break the mould, because in the end you’ll find a way to make it your own iteration. It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen or heard it before, it doesn’t have to be new to inspire. So, watch that movie or tv show or YouTube video, listen to that song, watch the Dancer on TikTok and find a way to be inspired by the creatives that came before you.
Famed writer Victor Hugo once said; “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” And take it from the guy whose novel about a French revolution went on to become one of the most popular musicals of all time, nearly a hundred years after he died. Music can inspire. As a writer I personally have created playlists that inspire me as have plenty of other writers, such as Brandon Sanderson. Personally, I find music that doesn’t have lyrics to it usually more inspiring. If music can generate an emotional connection to that creative part of your brain, then it can inspire you. It can also be a comfort to you, to take your mind away to another place, away from the current situation we’re in, without ever having to leave your home.
Open Spotify, Amazon Music, or again YouTube, and find yourself some music that will take you away. Listen to a few songs and create a playlist out of it all. And save that for future use, also in the description below I have a bunch of playlists I’ve created that inspire me as well as links to those from other creatives. Close your eyes and let the music wash over you, then channel the emotions it creates in you, to create something. Let it create pictures and stories in your mind and let the music to take your mood in the direction you need it to go to be creative. Put pen to paper and let the music inspire and guide you in the background.
Speaking of pen to paper, you’d be surprised that no matter how much artistic talent and experience you have, doodling can be a great way to just let your mind flow out and break those blocks. I’m not saying you must become a professional illustrator here, I’m saying doodle, for fun – anything, it doesn’t matter.
Grab a pencil and some paper and start drawing whatever your mind is telling you to do, don’t think just do it. Draw your favourite characters, doodle a superman symbol, maybe even try one of those TikTok art challenges. If you do decide to learn how to art, and I might do this because frankly my storyboarding skills need work, there are plenty of online resources from YouTube to Skillshare that can help you learn how to hone that craft. But just try doodling anything from a map of your world you’re creating to a random doodle of ducks – I don’t know what’s in your beautiful brains.
Take a Break
Alright people, I’ll be honest. I am terrible at this one. But sometimes the best way to stay creative is to stop trying to force it. One of the best ways to do this is to get out of your brain. We are allowed to go for a walk, or a jog, take the precautions we have to and stay six feet or two meters apart from people.
Go for a run, or a walk, get outdoors and let your brain turn off it’s forced creativity and rejuvenate itself. Your brain needs rest too. You can combine this with music if you want. But if you don’t want to risk it, if you want to stay in there is another way to take a break and rejuvenate the brain. It’s not alcohol, trust me - that does the opposite, it’s the baby out with the bathwater of a creative mind, kills the bad stuff and the good stuff. Like using a nuke to mow your lawn.
Now I’ve only tried this a couple of times and it doesn’t mean you have to go fully hippy, there is no shame in trying something that literally millions of people have done for thousands of years to centre themselves. Be free, be one with the universe…duuuuuude. Make art not war. But seriously, there’s a lot you can do from casually closing your eyes and letting go to fully body hot yoga.
There are plenty of guides out that you can look into online on how to help clear and reset your mind, especially on social media. One yoga instructor I personally recommend is Cat Meffan, she’s an old school friend of mine and genuinely one of the most awesome people I’ve ever known. If yoga isn’t your thing, I’m sure there are plenty of other guides out there. I’m not going to pretend I’m some kind of meditation guru master, I don’t personally do it – but here’s the thing, a lot of creatives do to find their purpose and rebalance those scales in your brain.
Getting the blood pumping can get your brain functioning, I mean our whole life is based around the idea of oxygen getting to our vital organs, it’s how they function. So, exercise will crank that process up.
In addition to the literal millions of hours of video on the subject of home workouts, there are a lot of apps out there like Freeletics and Fitbod that can build a routine for you without ever touching a machine in the gym. You can buy yourself resistance bands to do your weight style training, and trust me, a good workout with those, can be even more gruelling than chunky weights. He’d also kill me if I didn’t mention him, but Chris Mortee, the Tensegrity Coach, is a client of mine and he’s got some excellent working from home videos.
Schedule and Organization
Some people say that over organizing can be the antithesis of creativity. But total chaos is never going to help you focus, it’s why I’m such a stickler for having structure in my stories. You can have a method to your madness, but the key is having the method in there somewhere. Planning out what you’re going to do for a few days can help you find the time in your schedule and organize your thoughts into set spaces in, what for every creative I know, is a severely overcluttered brain. But now that I’ve given you a whole lot of ways to boost your creativity while we’re all locked up and locked down, let’s log them in a calendar.
Calendar scheduling and planning your day using apps is one thing. Using a written calendar helps too. If you have an Alexa or Google Home, then you can ask them to schedule stuff for you. Which, as a side note you can also ask to play music in a genre you want. Another great bit of technology that works across phones and computers is the app called “Todoist” which helps you schedule and plan what you’re going to do. And psychologically by ticking off things in a list, you will feel more accomplished and it will help unburden the pressure. As I said earlier, being creative requires breaking out of certain negative routines and sticking a good routine every day that gives you that feeling of accomplishment, is going to be very valuable.
And so, there’s a whole range of activities to try. But let me know in the comments if you have any techniques for staying creative in these very troubling times. I’d like to know and I’d like to try them out, self-isolating can be very, well… isolating – but that doesn’t have to stop your creativity and I’m sure other people in our creative community could very much use some help in these times.
Feel free to hit me up on twitter or on the Leon Films socials, we read everything and every comment, and any ideas you have on staying creative in these times we’ll share with everyone else.
We will get through this; it’s not going to be easy but it’s not going to be impossible. We need to use our creative minds because the world frankly needs us now more than ever. You have a gift that the world needs, a power that can merge and meld the worlds that exist in your mind and the world of reality – to create and inspire. We might not be a doctor or a nurse, or an essential worker to the specific task at hand but that’s the blessing and the curse of being a creative, of being a writer, a musician, an artist, it cannot survive without creatives because we inspire and help the world progress going forward.
So, in these trying times, take the time to look after yourselves and do what you can to look after our world by creating new worlds.