In this state of quarantine, it’s easy to let our brains turn to mush. We have to keep the creativity alive, and here’s a few tips for doing so…
How’s everyone doing in quarantine? Well — I hope! I’m doing my best to stay busy — I still have a podcast to produce and, of course, edits on the book. But even then, keeping my creativity going is proving a bit of a struggle. Especially when sitting back and watching Netflix all day is such a tempting alternative.
On my Facebook and Instagram channels these last two weeks, I ran a series of basic posts. All of which added up to five tips for staying creative while in quarantine. And to expand on them, I have laid them out below.
1. Simply: Try to do Something Creative Every Day
Put simply, my first piece of advice is: try to do something creative every day. It’s not only a means of being productive, but it can be beneficial for your mental health. And you don’t necessarily need to work on a specific project – just do something random for its own sake if you have to. Write a random poem or blog post (as I am right now), or post a photo or video. And don’t forget that research, planning and editing still count towards the creative process. Just in case you can’t bring yourself to finish that chapter today. Tweaking and adding to plans for future stories is one of my ways of feeling productive at the best of times!
2. Write Everything Down!
The best ideas generally come from doing monotonous tasks. Lord knows you’ll probably be doing a few of those while working from home. Keep that creativity flowing for later use and write those ideas down. I would be a rich man indeed if I had a pound for every good idea I didn’t put in a notebook somewhere. Some may form the foundation for a major project.
To name a good example of mine: You Can Hear Chopin from the Attic – the wartime mystery thriller I have had on the back burner for the last year or so. True, it was partly inspired by a dream, but the overall plot was steadily developed while I was working an office job at Nationwide Building Society. I took many of the characters’ personalities and idiosyncrasies from people I worked with (some of my closest friends among them).
3. Look Everywhere for Inspiration
Bit of a moot point, I grant you — given we can only go out once a day for exercise. But we still have that valuable resource — social media. Draw inspiration from wherever you can. I have a lot of artistic friends; photographers among them. And some of the imagery they captured prior to all this coronavirus nonsense flaring up is truly beautiful. Whether that’s a seascape, a photo of a forest or a nighttime image.
One of my absolute favourite photos, taken by a very good friend of mine, Callum Shirley (chuck him a Like or Follow for some brilliant shots), is of Knowlton Church. Looks like the sort of place that could be associated with a ghost legend. With the rather hauntingly desolate surroundings and bleak weather, it has inspired a part of the setting for a new horror-mystery story I’m planning bit-by-bit in the background.
4. Free Writing is a Useful Practice
“What is Free Writing?” you may ask…
It’s something I highly recommend, whether to blow out the creative cobwebs or as a tool for gaining momentum on a project. It is exactly what it sounds like – writing freely on anything you feel like until you run out of steam. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t have to be relevant to your current project. You can save it in a Word document or in a binder, or just throw it away. Equally, you might find the beginning of a chapter you were looking for. Maybe even the foundation for a brand-new story!
Again, to use an example from my own experience, I refer to a passage in Lust & Liberty, pertaining to the moon that I produced while doing a bout of free writing. I had this poetic description of the moon in my head and, while I had no use for it at the time, I wrote it down. And it ended up being the beginning to Chapter 47 of that novel:
Excerpt from The Berylford Scandals: Lust & Liberty — Chapter XLVII: In the Garden in the Small Hours
The moon was a grand, giant pearl of striking, eerie, silver luminescence; a haunting sight to behold suspended motionless amid the black, starless sky, as though it were a ghostly ship abreast great waves of purple and smoke grey cloud. A singular great streetlamp of spectral aspect almost lighting the path to another world. A beacon of the ether, summoning home the spirits of the dead and dying…
5. Share Your Creativity
Last but not least, let’s not forget to share what we’ve been creating. We need entertaining now more than ever while we’re in quarantine. So, for goodness’ sake – share your creativity with your connections and, by extension, the world. Set up a blog, as a couple of my fellow writers have already done. Or keep it simple and just use your social media channels.
For the purposes of this segment, I really wanted to let you read a poem or short story about a lobster who smokes cigars with his owner. But at the moment, it’s not quite flowing in the way I’d like. So you’ll have to wait for that…
In the meantime, please feel free to share links to your own creative musings. Whether that’s stories, photos, videos — I’d love to know how you’ve been staying creative during this quarantine period.