We’re all going through the same situation right now. However, not all of us are dealing with it in the same way and it has affected all of us differently: some are working like usual, some moved to working from home, and some are completely off work until the coronavirus crisis is over. Whichever group you’re in, I believe that you’ve heard a bunch of suggestions for staying creative in isolation.
The problem is that these sometimes seem like an imperative. It’s like you have to keep doing something “meaningful” all the time. Even in the current situation, I feel like sometimes we’re forced into studying, working, and being productive and creative. And many of us are just not into it, at least not all the time.
With this article, I want to address these topics. As I usually do with this type of articles, I’d like to give you some advice and encouragement. And for those of you who do feel like creating, I have a few ideas that will help you create something, but without feeling any pressure.
You have lots of free time… Or do you?
As I said, there are so many different ways in which the coronavirus crisis has affected each of us. But as let’s take an example of those among you who are entirely out of work right now. You suddenly have a lot of free time… But do you really? Can we even call it “free time?”
First of all, this situation has made most of us feel anxious, confused, and depressed. We have no idea when this will all be over, and there’s so much uncertainty, anger, and frustration. Those who have families now have a lot more work at home. Kids aren’t going to school now, you can’t leave them with your parents, plus there’s housework to do every day, and so on. So, there’s not actually that much free time.
Others may have all the time in the world right now. Still, this isn’t the free time as you’d like it to be. This isn’t a vacation. If you’re left without work, you’re probably worried and stressed, and creativity may be the last thing on your mind – and that’s all perfectly normal.
Do you have to keep creating, learn new things, and work on yourself?
The short answer would be: you don’t have to do anything.
I think that our society teaches us to feel valuable only if we do something “meaningful,” if we’re always occupied, and if we work a lot. We’re constantly told to be “the best version of ourselves.” Most of us aren’t aware of it, and it takes a lot of self-training to become kinder to yourself. You know, to stop feeling guilty and worthless if you spend one whole weekend watching sitcoms in your pajamas.
Similarly, you may now feel the social pressure that you have to stay creative. That you have to work on yourself, keep learning, working, creating… And you may not feel like it. You’re anxious and stressed, it leads to a severe creative block, and everyone seems to be telling you that now is the time to “invest in yourself,” which makes you feel even worse.
Well, I say that you should invest in yourself, but by doing what you feel like doing. The most important thing right now is to do things that make you happy, that help you to calm down, and that keep you occupied. For some people, this means doing something creative. Others feel the need to study and read. And yet the others just wanna watch sitcoms in pajamas. Whatever you feel like – it’s okay, and it’s normal. Listen to yourself, be kind to yourself, and don’t force creativity if you don’t feel like it right now.
But what if you do feel creative, but you’re constrained?
If you do feel the need to create, that’s great too! But now there are other problems: all of us are restricted in all sorts of ways right now regardless of the genre we shoot. Take my example: I take mostly travel and landscape photos. But like everyone else, I can’t travel right now, and the “landscape” I see from my balcony is made entirely of concrete.
Still, between anxiety attacks and crying sessions, I feel a desire to be creative. You may feel like it too, yet your possibilities are so limited right now. Frustrating, isn’t it? Because of this, I have three suggestions for you. I hope they’ll help you to overcome these restrictions and start creating without pressure, for your soul.
Lower your criteria
When I say this, I refer to two things: your gear and your photos.
For example, if you’re used to shooting portraits with high-end gear, you may not enjoy shooting with a smartphone. This may drive you away from long-distance projects like this one because people you photograph will likely use their phones. But I think you should give it a shot. It’s more about the experience and the connection than it is about perfect sharpness and resolution.
Another thing is your photos. If you feel a desire to create, just… create! You don’t have to make complex setups, photograph professional models, and create masterpieces. Just play with your camera and allow yourself to have fun.
Change your perspective
As I said, our possibilities are far from endless right now. And if you do feel creative, now’s the right time to change your perspective. This can mean several things: you can try other genres and new techniques. You can finally try something you’ve always wanted, or join a photo challenge. Once again, you don’t have to create masterpieces. Instead, focus on having fun, keeping yourself occupied, and fulfilling your desire to create.
I don’t have as much free time as I’d like, but I finally managed to try “time-stacking,” something I’d wanted to try for quite a while. I didn’t create a super-awesome photo, but I enjoyed the process of shooting and editing. It made me keep my mind off things – and I think that’s the point.
It doesn’t have to be photography
Usually, when I have an idea, I set everything up and start shooting, building upon my idea as I go. But now, my desire to create feels different than usual. It’s a bit hard to explain: I have the drive to make something, but I have no idea what. As if I just have to do something with my hands to keep them occupied.
If you’re experiencing something similar but just don’t know what to shoot – well, you don’t have to shoot. You can create something else. For example, start a DIY project, cook something, paint, fix your car, plant flowers… You get my point. If you feel this completely vague desire to do something, it doesn’t have to be photography if you’re not inspired for it.
In the flood of “use isolation to work on yourself” messages, I read something that I liked far better: “There is no right way to feel right now.” In other words, whatever you feel is perfectly normal. Don’t let anyone tell you that you should become “the best version of yourself” right now. Don’t feel guilty if you’re not creative or productive. We’re not on vacation; we’re in the state of emergency.
Be kind to yourself, do what you feel like doing, and try to remain calm. If you need mental health support, don’t hesitate to seek for it (you can find some resources here). If you feel like creating – great, but if you don’t, stop beating yourself up because of it. And remember, this too shall pass, and we’ll have plenty of time and inspiration for creating when it does. We’ve got this!