Note: edited on march 29 2022
Creativity during uncertain times
During these Covid times, it has been harder to keep focus and be creative. You’re bombarded every day with news of how worse things are getting, anxiety builds up, and your creative juices seem too scarce. What’s even worse is the uncertainty in the air. Plus, if you’re working from home, work and personal life get mixed up all the time, and at the end of the day, you’re so drained that there is not one drop of creativity in you. So, how can you build up habits that will make you permanently more creative?
I’ve been feeling so drained in the past few months. It’s as if all my senses are depleted. They’re okay, but I got to a point where I didn’t enjoy food anymore. I didn’t care if I ate dog food or popcorn. Not even a piece of my favorite cake stimulated me. Even beyond my senses, watching my favorite movies didn’t spark any joy. My writing felt canned. We humans weren’t made to live in captivity, but these times require such measures, so we must adapt. How are we supposed to adjust, then?
These days we have to spend more time indoors. Because of this, it’s essential to have a routine. But a routine that’s too programmed may be better for more analytical settings. Going through the same routine and activities one day after another gives me the automaton disease. I start feeling like a robot, which drains me of any creative juice in my soul. I feel like an inanimate object, incapable of expressing myself. The typical Instagram (waking up at 5 am, eating protein dust, and doing Crossfit for three hours) lifestyle makes me intensely miserable in the long run. Creative minds need space for wonder and surprise. After months of trial and error, I found nine habits that helped boost my creativity and will undoubtedly help you as well.
Note: these tips apply to anybody!
1. Retrieving old memories
Think of a place you visited as a child or even an old anecdote for a couple of minutes. Then write all the details you can remember.
I remembered my grandma’s house: the white painted walls, the smell of orange tree flowers on the terrace, her colorful and perfectly aligned living room.
Examples of topics do describe:
- Your classroom in elementary school
- a field trip
- your grandparents’ house
- An old anecdote
You’re exercising your memory, entering a state of deep focus, and revisiting a happy place.
Take at least 10 minutes to write down and explore your memories. You can do it daily, weekly, whatever you feel it’s appropriate. The important is to think of a place that brings you good memories and revives your senses. Physical details are lovely but focus on feelings too.
2. Describe to yourself the food you're eating.
This exercise works better if you’re alone, so you don’t have to do this during family lunch. It can be just a snack. Notice textures, sounds*, thoughts. You don’t have to write them; be mindful (but you can jot them down). What do the flavors remind you of? Where do you feel yourself being transported?
*yeah, sounds may be gross!😂
3. Mindful walk (if possible).
How often do we walk past the same park and pay no attention to it?
Next time you take a walk, be mindful of your surroundings. Notice the different tones of green in the grass or birds singing.
Walking for too long is not an option if your city is under lockdown. It’s not the same, but you can try watching on Youtube a virtual walk in a city you miss or would like to visit, for example.
4. Stop engaging in unnecessary drama.
The drama takes up the mind space you need for essential activities and also depletes you from creativity. It’s like a stress injection, and when your body is under stress, it produces cortisol, impacting your bodily functions even if you like the thrill.
Let’s be honest: watching certain reality shows, news, or feeding on social media conflict won’t improve your life. Know when to walk away from toxic input.
5. Light Copywork
One activity that can help you boost your creativity and improve your writing is handwriting your favorite book quotes. Some writers recommend you handwrite an entire book that you like. Though that’s not impossible (especially if you love the book), it is also counterproductive. Handwriting quotes from your favorite books will help you internalize all those different voices and observe the style and form. Also, pay close attention to how they describe something or make you feel when you read it.
6. Have an inspiration board:
It can be a physical or digital board. You can use Pinterest, Trello, or Notion to save your bits of inspiration. Or keep a physical one. I made this with the wrapping paper from Papergang’s February Box. Add landscapes that you like or aim to visit in the future, outfits, kitty photos, motivational quotes. Whatever makes you connect with yourself. You can even take 5 and add your favorite passages to the board! The board is yours to make; turn it into your inspiration sanctuary and make sure it’s in a place you can see!
7. Learn something new every day
You’re always on time to learn new skills. Learning new stuff is excellent brain food. Learning a language is like learning a new way of expressing yourself. Why not know how to play an instrument?
I’m 31, and I’ve been learning how to play violin during the past year on my own by watching youtube videos. I’m no Itzhak Perlman, but I can play many songs already! Nobody is too old for that.
You can learn any skill if you put a minimum effort into it.
If you still resist new stuff, see it from a different perspective. There are millions of possible activities in the world; what if there’s a high percentage of activities/crafts/skills that you love but haven’t found yet in that pool?
8. Be kind to yourself
Don’t be a tyrant! Take time to rest, and don’t force yourself to be creative because that will awaken the rebel colossus inside you that will try to resist whatever you want to do.
Make sure to sleep enough time and don’t work for too long. Taking a 5-minute break for every 25-minute work block, like the Pomodoro method, is helpful. You can increase the time slots, but remember that if your breaks are too long, you’re more likely to go beyond what’s necessary to rest, and procrastination wins.
9. Keep a Bullet Journal
A bullet journal is a simple system where you jot down notes in bullet points. You can use it as a planner, a journal, an artsy notebook, or, my favorite, all of the above. This goes well with my pretty note policy, which helps me get the motivation I need to reread my notes.
Habit Trial and Error
We‘re in a day and age that everything is on the internet. Everything is pre-prepared for us, so we’re more resistant to trying new things. We tend to skip the “trial and error” phase and go straight to what other people say has worked for them. I was stuck in that part because I was hoping to find right away what was the best routine for me. I tried different things, such as waking up before most birds. Some worked, some didn’t because none of them was specifically crafted for me. And, spoiler alert, there are several correct answers for what works for someone.
Does this mean you have to make room in your life for all of these creative habits? No! I don’t do all of them every day. After working, I don’t have a lot of energy, so I need to be selective with the activities I do. I save several time slots a week for some of these and combine or rotate them depending on how I feel. If I feel like drawing instead of reading, that’s fine! The reason why I haven’t posted about my daily routines is that I’m still optimizing them.
My take-home message is: be inquisitive and take only what serves you. Don’t be afraid to try different methods and, above all, don’t be afraid of failure, as it teaches you where you can improve.
Hopefully, you found these tips helpful. If you’re interested in a Free Weekly Planner, subscribe to my newsletter. I don’t send many emails, so you don’t have to worry about constantly having to clean your inbox.
What are some other habits you follow that keep your creative mind healthy?