I gave a creativity talk for a London conference in February just days before I went on holiday to the U.S. When I got back, we were all like this woman in the Gustave Max Stevens painting above. We’re trapped at our windows wondering when we will be free to run around in the world again. But chin up! Despite the many overwhelming negative impacts, the Coronavirus pandemic also poses a great opportunity to put some creativity tips to work. And it’s with creativity that we can actually thrive in times of change and uncertainty.
Creativity is the residue of time wasted…
… As the saying goes. And suddenly now most of us have more time to waste than ever before. All those commutes, after work drinks, and window shopping have disappeared into thin air. In their place: time to waste! It carries a stigma though to admit you’re wasting time. But it’s actually essential for creativity. When we waste time we are able to explore, dream, and experiment. Those accidental discoveries can only come out of those states. You know, the discoveries you wouldn’t have had if you weren’t ‘wasting time’ in the first place.
And BOY do we need those accidental discoveries these days to give us a leg up. We’re suddenly faced with new challenges. Work needs to be redefined (in one week I had to adapt my workshops and talks to an online format). Your income might be on shaky ground (tell me about it!). The kids are at home (I hear from others). Supposedly you’re home schooling while working full time (yeah, right!). And even then you’re lucky because you have a job. In short: we’ve been forced into a new reality with new problems. So a more innovative and problem-solving mindset is essential. Lucky for us, creativity can help. Also lucky for us, creativity is like a muscle: everyone can exercise it and make it stronger.
But to exercise that muscle, we need to leave our comfort zones and explore uncharted territory. I know, I know, your quarantine Netflix binge is MIGHTY tempting. But I bet you’ll have unexpected fun with these creativity tips as well. Plus, you’ll be gaining essential skills to help you slalom the hills of change with surprising ease. Here are five creativity – pumping coronavirus age creativity tips you can do at home.
1. Dig up an old hobby or pastime
Think of those things you loved to do when you used to have time. Maybe it’s what you loved doing as a kid or teenager. Playing an instrument? Drawing comics? Skateboarding? Sewing? Baking bread? Revisiting old passions or starting new ones is a great way to stoke your curiosity. It’s because when you dive into these things it makes your mind active rather than passive. When your mind actively asks questions and explores, it’s more creative.
Result: Stoke your curiosity.
2. Get physical in new ways
This applies if you’re used to hitting the gym (that’s now closed). But it also applies even if you’re at your most creative when you design excuses not to exercise. Whichever one is you, invent new ways to get physical. This could be to find new ways to pump those triceps and crunch those abs with whatever you have at home. Or it could be YouTube swing dance lessons or yoga routines online. Look for ways to stay fit that are available at your fingertips. Create new ways to stay physically healthy while we’re all housebound.
Result: Grow your inventiveness.
3. Unleash your inner Picasso
This is good to do especially if you think you’re crap at art. Crank up your favourite tunes then crack out the pencils, pens, crayons, chalk and paintbrushes. (Online shopping will save you if you’re already stuck!) Get lost in your adventures on the paper. Doing this helps you access ‘creative mode thinking’ which means your brain resonates alpha waves. You’ll lose track of time and you’ll relieve stress. Check out this video if you’d like some creativity tips of how to start before you do something on your own.
Result: Relieve stress.
4. Become a storyteller
This is one of my favourite coronavirus creativity tips. Go to the window and sit in a chair to look out. Wait until you see someone walking by. Observe what they’re wearing. Look at how they walk. Are they smiling? Are they lost in a phone call? See if they carry themselves with tension or are relaxed. Pick up on all the signals you see and imagine a story about them. Where have they come from? Where are they going? What’s their name? What do they secretly get up to when no one’s watching? You can imagine these things or write them down and see where the adventure takes you. Maybe pick two people you’ve observed and put them both in your story.
Result: Develop your imagination.
5. Reinvent yourself
We usually describe and see ourselves in pretty fixed ways. It’s usually a lot to do with work. So it can be fun to describe yourself in new ways. Do it with restrictive criteria like this. Make a list of categories: animals, shoes, countries, colours, flowers, food, movies – whatever! Now describe yourself within the limits of the new criteria. For example: food. “I’m like a clementine, because you don’t know how sweet or tart I’m feeling until you take a bite” … “I’m like popcorn because when things heat up, I let it all out.” You get the idea. It could make for a spicier Tinder profile as well.
It seems silly. But games with constraints are useful because they focus our attention and help us get better at solving problems. (Haven’t you noticed your problems always have constraints?)
Result: Hone problem solving skills.
“Creativity is the power to act.” Ai Weiwei
Trust Ai Weiwei. Make time this week to act! Try one of the five coronavirus era creativity tips above and see what happens. Maybe start with the one that sounds like the most fun. Then try another. I recommend you also pay attention to which tips really make you want to hide under a rock to avoid them. When you have that reaction, it means there’s probably something there you would benefit from facing. Remember with creativity the more you make a habit of creative activities, the more creative you’ll become. So make the most of your lockdown. Set aside time every day for creative nourishment and you’ll start to see things differently before you know it.
POST SCRIPT: Thanks for coming along on the adventure. Drop me a note in the comments below and I hope to see you again after a few more turns in the trail.