Quarantine got you down? Feeling stuck? Depressed? Anxious? Demotivated? I’ve been dealing with a whole host of emotions, but I’ve found the most effective cure has been working to nurture my own creativity and stay in the moment.
Here are a few ways I’ve been staying creative in quarantine:
Exploring new mediums
An easy way to get out of any rut is to break your routine. Interrupting normal patterns or behaviors creates opportunities for new thoughts and therefore new actions. So, I thought I’d try expressing my feelings about being in quarantine in a short-form (non-rhyming) piece. I don’t often think of myself as a writer, but this was a rejuvenating exercise. Here’s what I wrote:
“What would I do without you?”
In the midst of all this chaos and quarantine, the question has been echoing in my head.
The truth is I have no idea.
It feels like a dark time. Some days I wake up and I don’t want to even pretend to try. I don’t like thinking about the future anymore.
But then sometimes, I notice something.
Just across the table. You’re typing away, chewing on your tongue. The picture zooms out and I see both of us sitting there next to each other.
And it dawns on me…how lucky am I?
I think of the people isolated in their apartments. Stuck. Unable to hold or be held. Relying on screens just to feel a sense of connection.
As nice it is, it’s not the real thing.
Joni Mitchell said “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. I’ve made that mistake so many times already, but I want to be better.
So I guess that’s why I wrote this song. That’s why I need you to listen to it.
“What would I do without you?”
I don’t know. Let’s not find out.
Meditating is like flossing. I don’t do it enough, but when I do I am always glad I did, and everyone else I care about benefits. Honestly, it’s like flossing for your thoughts and emotions. When I first began trying to meditate, I found that a lot of the online guided meditations made me feel uncomfortable; the tone felt super woo-woo cosmic and it was hard to take seriously. If you want to try something that feels more grounded, there are 2 apps I would HIGHLY recommend: Headspace and Sam Harris’s meditation app.
Stream of consciousness brain dumping
Also known as “Morning Pages” in Julia Cameron’s fantastic book The Artist’s Way. Helpful in so many different ways, and especially for neutering the critic in your head. It’s led me to insights, song ideas, business ideas, jokes, uncomfortable truths, and often things I wasn’t even planning on discovering!
The rules are simple: as soon as you get up, before you do anything else, write 3 handwritten pages of whatever the hell is in your head. Just get it out onto the page and don’t let anything interrupt you until you’re done. You will judge yourself and that’s OK. No matter how nonsensical and fragmented your words are, or how bad you think your performance of this exercise is, it is virtually impossible to do it “wrong”.
Walking in nature
Nature is awesome, but I don’t have to tell you that. Climate Change means our kids probably won’t get to experience nature like we do, so we may as well appreciate it while we still have it! I’m lucky to be quarantined in an area with some green space and I take my border collie (her name is Fidget) on a walk every morning so that some outside time is built into my daily routine. I recognize a lot of other people may not be so lucky, but quarantine means traffic isn’t so bad, so go head somewhere far out from the city and spend a few hours walking around and just marveling at it all!
Collaborating with other artists
Even though we’re stuck inside, we have pretty incredible technology that allows us to collaborate in real-time over vast distances. Plus, many creatives have had multiple gigs fall through due to quarantine, so those that may have been way too busy before suddenly have open schedules. In my case, I hit up @kentaro (a polymath and strong candidate for world’s most interesting man) via Instagram and asked if he’d be interested in creating some artwork for my next single. Kent is usually insanely busy, but to my great fortune, he obliged. He asked me to describe what I wanted, so I used my very own tip #3 (stream of consciousness) to generate some ideas and in 24 hours he sent me this masterpiece:
Developing New Skills
For a lot of us, being in quarantine has meant suddenly having a much more flexible schedule. So what do you do with all that new time? It’s easy to gorge yourself on the endless amount of content out there, but it rarely feels re-energizing.Instead, what about learning something new? A new song? A new cooking technique? A new skill?
I’ve played around with producing my own song demos for the last 3-4 years, but I’ve also had a mental block about fully producing my own music. I’ve always relied on a co-producer to polish up my demos and take them from 80% to 100%. Somewhere deep down, I’ve known I’ve been undercutting myself and had the very reliable excuse of “not having enough time”. Well, the ‘rona certainly saw to that!
I decided to challenge myself and try to completely self-produce a song. To make it real, I set a deadline for myself. To make it exciting, I chose a song that a few of my friends had said they really dug. Finishing the track on time was one of the most challenging things I’ve done: I spent hours tweaking a single drum hit, more hours creating entire sections of the song that I just ended up deleting, and struggled with losing clarity on what the song wanted to be. In the end, after shedding figurative blood, a little bit of sweat, and literal tears, I was able to do it.
Not only did I push past my own imaginary limits, but I’m actually super proud of what I created! Check it out!
Writing about the tough stuff
I’ll be honest, for all the self-help tips in the world, this time has still been difficult and some days are better than others. COVID-19 took away so much, and so much has changed in a short time that it’s hard to sort through the mix of depression, hope, excitement, and fear that I feel. So of course, my last (and maybe the most obvious) tip is to take those emotions and wade deep into them through your art.
Maybe all you do is write about how depressed you are, maybe you start there and it turns into something hopeful, maybe it turns into something else entirely. The point is that, as creators, we have the ability to turn something invisible (like our own thoughts and emotions) into something tangible. Within that process is where the real magic happens. Think about it! Or don’t. Just go make something honest.
BONUS: Pampering yourself.
This stuff is all hard. Life is hard. Sometimes you just need a break. A massage. A bubble bath. A hot shower. A pint of ice cream. Whatever it is, if you’re burned out, find a small way to reward yourself. You deserve it, damn it.
DOUBLE BONUS: Spread the love.
Share this with a loved one / best friend, cause if they find this helpful at all that would make me really stoked. If you find yourself digging it and wanna chat about life, creativity, music, or whatever else just hit me up on IG or text me at (650) 267-2924!
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photos / courtesy of artist
story / Axel Mansoor