In 1811, Lord Byron was quarantined for 40 days in Malta, after travelling from Greece, where there was a huge outbreak of cholera. Infuriated at this prospect, and spurred on by a rage-induced creative wave, he wrote ‘Farewell to Malta’, a satirical poem. I can say, with absolute certainty that during the lockdown, I haven’t come close to writing a poem, let alone a good one. And, I have concluded that that’s fine.
Having spent a week self-isolating completely on my own, I felt frustrated by the fact I had less inspiration than Trump has sense. I started to come to strange realisation that I might not be ‘creative’. Despite studying a combination of two arts-based subjects, one of which requires us to create work on an almost weekly basis, I spent a week terrified of the possibility that I was completely unsuited to the field, which I had committed to for 3 years at a minimum. Having trawled YouTube for TED talks on procrastination, followed productivity gurus on Instagram, and even resorted to Twitter rage as a source of inspiration, I was firmly in a drought of ideas.
As my friends around me seemed to breathe incredible music, art, clothing and literature into being, seemingly unburdened by the lack of inspiration I was experiencing, I started to doubt myself and my idea of what it meant to be creative. It was at this point I realised that I was going about the strange search for creativity in entirely the wrong way.
Virgil Abloh didn’t simply think up Off-White and saunter into his role as Head of Menswear at Louis Vuitton on a whim. Adele doesn’t wake up and think, ‘I’ll come up with another heart-wrenching chart-topper today‘. Damien Hirst doesn’t saw animals in half and encase them in formaldehyde because it popped into his head mid-coffee. These ideas and processes, however outlandish, are the result of a cultivated and practised method, a mindset which doesn’t create but promotes the environment for creativity, borne, for the most part, out of a deep and personal love for their craft. This is what I was seeing, plastered across social media. It wasn’t a display of creativity, but the tangible result of passion and a commitment.
It was time, therefore, to look for a new approach. In a few steps, I attempted to figure out a plan, to guide me towards the creativity that I was searching for:
- Social media is your friend.
At first, I thought the constant barrage of information, talent and opinion might be detrimental to the personal nature of creating, whatever the medium may be — how wrong I was. Seeing other people, their experiences, ideas and abilities is a constant and evolving source of inspiration, whether you watch a video and think: ‘what a load of rubbish’ or ‘that’s incredible‘ — you have responded to it. You can use that response in any number of different ways, provided you keep an open mind.
- Don’t look for what you’re passionate about.
I spent a while looking at creators I admire, pieces I thought were provocative, or following hashtags on Twitter that appeared to have some momentum (can highly recommend following the ‘weather’ topic). None of this seemed to miraculously enlighten me to my higher creative purpose, despite some short prayers and a DM to Kanye West. Instead, consuming things here and there, whilst going about my daily business led me back to what interested me, and I realised what I might like to accomplish, given enough attention.
- If you’re bored of it, move on.
We are fortunate enough to live in the digital age, with auto-save, word documents and computers that don’t fill whole rooms or spontaneously combust. Take full advantage of these and if you get fed up of one idea, leave it behind. It’s not going anywhere, save it for a rainy day. Especially in a situation like a lockdown, it’s vital to keep things fresh and fun, when it could be so easy to find yourself stuck looking at a poem/song/portrait/T-shirt/etc. you’ve come to resent.
So, this is simply my experience, but I thought it might well be worth sharing, as (hopefully) I’m not the only one who took a long, hard look in the mirror over lockdown, and realised I wasn’t Lord Byron….yet.
By James Murtagh
Image: by Shari’s Berries via Flickr