Did you have your ‘big creative idea’ in 2020?
If, like me, you didn’t, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d failed in some cataclysmic manner. Particularly when the most popular social-media instructions for Lockdown 1.0 were for us all to “pause and reflect,” and to “start something new”.
Apparently, a lot of us took the hint, with “55% per cent of people now more creative with their time than they were before lockdown…”
But what if you struggled?
What if you weren’t gifted a glittering wodge of spare time by the coronavirus, or your mind was so focused on the essential acts of staying alive and keeping the roof over your head, that it forgot to do any reflecting or creating at all?
Could 2021 be different?
As much as I eschewed all this “pause and reflect” business, I did find myself having to re-think the way I approached creativity in 2020. This was fuelled by my concentration span taking a massive nose-dive throughout lockdown.
I kept scrolling through social media when I should have been writing, and my floor was suddenly littered with books I started reading, but would abandon just a few chapters in, because I wasn’t able to stay focused on any of them.
In essence, that nose-dive is what forced me to come up with these ‘living a creative life’ resolutions. They’re not big or particularly clever, but hopefully they can inject some fun and zeal into a creative pursuit you’ve thought about following.
Don’t overthink it, and start small
Thinking about a creative project for ages can have the horrible effect of putting you off actually doing any work on it.
It’s like a teenage crush, in that you can build someone up so much in your mind, that they stop being a normal person and become godlike instead. And why would a gleaming deity want anything to do with silly old you, anyway?
So don’t think, do… but in a way that’s both fun, and easy for you to manage. Resolve to set a timer for 30 minutes, then draw, paint, write… whatever takes your fancy.
The only rule is, you’re not going to judge the results. You’re just going to…
…enjoy the process
Too many people think the object of a creative session is to produce something other people will appreciate.
But what if you could just relax and enjoy creating something new, regardless of how it turned out?
What if you didn’t have to show it to anyone else at all?
Part of my job involves interviewing career changers about how they made their shifts into new work. Many of them talk about initially wanting to switch to a creative career, then found they were happier keeping writing, painting or making as something fun and enjoyable to do for themselves.
I had a similar conversation with a friend over Christmas. She’s an insanely talented artist, but the moment she feels pressured to create something that others might want to buy, it all dries up.
So, she decided to stick to making art as gifts for appreciative friends instead, or just because, whenever she can find a spare moment or two.
It’s a decision she says made her feel free… as though she can “finally breathe out.”
Creativity isn’t just about coming up with fresh ideas, but creating new connections between old ones.
That’s something you can only do properly if you’re open and curious… willing to learn different things from different sources.
You could try reading an article in a magazine you wouldn’t normally choose, or a book from an unfamiliar genre (in the olden days when the libraries were open, I’d sometimes borrow autobiographies of people I’d never heard of before, and they were always interesting!)
Don’t try to outwit yourself
For me, this meant not trying to keep to schedules I knew I wasn’t going to stick to.
It’s taken years for me to realise that I can’t do timetables, word quotas, and goal setting. All of my past attempts have fallen flat, because I’m just that kind of stubborn, annoying person who will not do something they don’t want to do.
These days, I trust my instincts to tell me what needs to be done (there’s an obvious caveat for client work, which comes with built-in deadlines.)
For example, I care deeply about the novel I’m writing, and that means I will naturally find the time to work on it. If I don’t, there’s a niggling feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m learning to listen to that, rather than ticking boxes on a wall planner, and it’s working.
So if you find creative schedules hard to stick to, try listening to your inner voice for a while, instead. Or if you’re doing that and it’s not working, try a schedule and see what happens!
Try and test different approaches. You’re not a failure if the first one you try doesn’t work; it only means you haven’t found the one that will work for you.
I suppose the moral of all these ‘creative life’ resolutions is to stop piling pressure on yourself. There’s more than enough of that going around already.
But if you’re still concerned about shiny lockdown habits failing to materialise, you can take comfort from the writer Joel Golby, who said in a recent article about his own failed attempts, “if a global pandemic can’t force me to ‘get into yoga’, nothing will. There is peace in coming to a realisation like that.”