Other writers will know it well – there is nothing like locking yourself up in your own room, getting lost in the sound of clacking keys and just letting your imagination flow. The COVID-19 lockdown has injected a range of unpleasant thoughts into our tired, globalised heads, but if there is one silver lining in all this, it is that creatives have been left alone with their own imagination.
If you’ve felt more creative during social-distancing in the past few months, know that it is completely normal. Isolation doesn’t necessarily make us more creative or inspired – if anything, seeing less of the world can hinder our inspiration. Still, taking a break from the real world out there can sometimes render us more conscious of our own selves, including the passion we feel for our craft and our creative skills.
But then again, I’m an introvert by nature, so I probably have a bias there.
5 reasons why creativity works best in isolation
It’s hard to imagine what effect returning to our normal lives will have on our creative juices, but for the time being, we better take advantage of the current situation while we can.
If you are still working from home or are furloughed, here are 5 ways in which isolation can make us more creative or inspired, and how to take advantage of it.
Photo by Sirjana Kaur
More time to create
Unoriginally, we’ve just had more time in our hands. If we wanted to grab our iPad during lunch break and sketch a few characters, we could. If we wanted to make some quick research for a short story while waiting for the kettle to boil, we could. Not having to travel to and from work each day has saved us enormous chunks of travel time which we can now invest in a whole new way, to pursue our personal hobbies, interests or projects.
During this time, I found that keeping a strict schedule of your tasks and interests can work. If you are struggling with procrastination, try and gamify your priorities. Use an app like Forest, or just set very simple reminders to keep you on track. Believe me – it can do wonders.
Photo by Jelly London
More chances to focus
Mind, this probably doesn’t work the same way for you if you have kids running around the house. But if you do have a chance to isolate yourself in one room that is just yours, by creating your own bubble that can only be pierced from the inside, the chances to keep that focus are tenfold.
A study room, an unused bedroom, an old desk or your own corner in the back yard – anything can work to make you focused, if it works for you. And if you really can’t find a way to completely isolate yourself in your own space, you could always pop on a Nature Sounds playlist on Spotify while you create your thing. Some people keep focused more easily with white noises or ambient noises, and again, Forest is an amazing app for that. There are of course countless others that you can use, so do feel free to make your own research in that regard.
Photo by AMP Agency
You are in a familiar environment
Your time in the office is usually filled with heartfelt wishes for a lunch break or for the time to walk back home. When you’re already home, you are your own manager for most of the time and you are already immersed in an environment that is entirely familiar to you.
All the noises from other colleagues making phone calls, chatting, upselling, negotiating, dealing with queries and whatnot – all that goes away, leaving you with the usual noises of your own house. A random car passing by your window, your cat asking for food, your partner wanting to have a break together – all that can make you less stressed, more comfortable, and definitely more in the right mood to create something jazzy.
… Albeit a challenging one
Still, with a familiar environment come familiar challenges. It is not all fun and games when you’re stuck in a place you don’t necessarily want to be. That can definitely be a huge obstacle to our creativity and inspiration, right? Well, not necessarily.
Some time ago, I published on these pages a piece by a professional from our community, Richard Holman, on how to overcome creative constraints. In his article, Richard told the story of artist Chris Wilson, who made his colours and brushes in prison from M&Ms and a clump of his own hair, respectively. It goes to show the attitude of pretty much all creatives (and possibly humans as a whole), tenacious spirits who shall not be discouraged by a challenge, and will instead be even more inspired by it. After all, what is a brief if not a challenge in itself?
Photo by MerchantCantos
Your mind is free to work as it pleases… Perhaps too much
No one is denying the power and the influence of teamwork over creativity. Tapping on your colleague’s shoulder for a quick feedback has no price, and though focusing on your own craft can yield amazing results, few things will be as inspiring as a quick meeting over a creative project. Which is why being left alone with your mind can be a double-edged sword.
When staying alone and isolated for a long time, all your insecurities and anxieties are more likely to surface and take ownership of your creative process. At the same time, feelings of sadness and loneliness will be enhanced – but so will the opposite end of the spectrum. Which means happiness, motivation and determination will be just as strong.
The best part? We creatives need that stuff to make our best works. Writers, filmmakers, designers, game developers – it doesn’t matter who you are; a strong design process always starts with a concept, and concepts are often tied to emotions. Some of the best films, games and books I’ve experienced had a powerful emotion at their core, a message, a concept that I could resonate with. And if we can take advantage of our own emotions to bend the laws of creativity in our favour, our works will largely benefit from it.
So it is alright to embrace the feelings and moments of isolation we are all going through, especially now that we are gradually easing back into our lives pre-pandemic. Just remember to take breaks from your own mind too, every once in a while.