Is lockdown killing creativity?
Day 82 of some kind of lockdown. For many, the initial enthusiasm for a new routine of morning bread-making, online yoga and a 5pm Quarantini to accompany the last Zoom of the day is beginning to sink along with the sourdough. ‘Lockdown fatigue’ is a thing and even though many of us are physically moving around very little (32 steps over one day was a low point) we are in a permanent state of exhaustion.
At the start of lockdown I felt a surge of creative energy. The sudden forced overhaul of my daily routine coupled with the tight restrictions in the types of creative work we could now deliver (cue Ross from Friends yelling ‘PIVOT’) gave me a new perspective, new parameters to work within and the fear powered adrenaline a global pandemic brings.
Many inspiring cultural resources went online, the sun was shining and the daily roar of traffic was replaced with the morning song of birds. My new desk; looking out over the garden was a perfect spot for daydreaming – a habit that might seem (and look) mindless but one that is scientifically proven to stimulate imagination and creativity.
But three months in, what is the impact on our creative state of mind?
Creativity works in mysterious ways. For some people creativity is a stable characteristic that remains the same regardless of what is going on around them. For others it’s in a constant state of flux which shifts depending on situation and context. The lockdown has helped give us insight into how – as individuals – we are creative. I previously believed that I needed people around me to help stimulate my creativity. But, whilst I really miss my colleagues and the camaraderie of working in a team in the physical sense, I have realized during lockdown that I do some of my best creative thinking on my own.
Contrary to the stereotype of creatives as chaotic, many of the greatest writers, artists and musicians had very strict daily rituals and habits. Franz Kafka breakfasted on croissants and opium, Frank Lloyd Wright made a practice of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. and working for several hours before heading back to bed and Agatha Christie wrote on any surface.
These habits might be too eccentric for the traditional office set up, but as we move into the new normal we have an opportunity to shake things up. An opportunity to reflect on which habits have helped creativity thrive on an individual level and a responsibility to enable them to continue.
They say that great creativity comes out of crises. So, do I think that lockdown has killed creativity? No. I think it has forced us to become more attuned to our own internal creative direction and flow.
The pivoting isn’t over yet.