As we continue to experience a suspended reality, we are getting to know ourselves a bit better. We are confronting all aspects of our personality, of our personal history, our best and our worst.
The first week for me was the messiest one. I was waking up each day and didn’t know where to start. I had more time, but I wasn’t used to working from home, and during the early stage of the lockdown panic buyers had wiped off so many essential products from the shelves. Simple things such as food shopping or going to a pharmacy were so difficult! I couldn’t go to the shops in the evening like I used to, because everything I needed was gone, so I had to shift my working hours, and that little change led to chaos in my daily schedule for a good couple of weeks (I know it takes very little to disrupt my habits! With all the problems in the world I falter because I find a few empty shelves in the supermarket…).
On a more personal level, I found hard to deal with different feelings at the beginning. Worrying about my family and not being able to see them, trying to understand the current situation and what was the best thing to do in my position, how I could help. I have found myself in the midst of too many feelings at the same time. I have felt overwhelmed and lost focus, and often felt guilty because of this.
Fortunately my work is my “therapy” and once having established new healthy habits, I have learned to appreciate the little things I have taken for granted for a long time. These are a few things that are giving me balance and inspiring me:
- Being gentle with myself, and choose calm over efficiency.
I found strength in accepting my limitations and my vulnerability as human being. My days are less hectic, I don’t have to spend time on a commute five days a week. I have a lot of time, but that doesn’t mean I should put more pressure on myself to be productive. Readapting to an unprecedented and unknown situation has been a challenge for all of us, and each person reacts in a different way. Let’s not forget that we have all experienced a wide range of emotions in a few days, and to understand and accept reality took a lot of work. This is not the moment to expect results from ourselves.
- Spending more time observing nature.
When you are too busy going from point A to point B you often miss the little things around you. During my sparse errands to the shops I have shamefully acknowledge how much time I was spending indoors before the lockdown even began! This year Spring has been phenomenal, and the reduced traffic have allowed the people who live in cities to appreciate birds’ chirping and the sound of leaves moved by the wind. Walking and exercising in nature have reconnected me with my passion for the natural world and made me feel happy just for being able to breathe, walk and live my life everyday.
- Finding the routine that works for me, and being flexible.
It is a common problem for people spending long hours working at a desk to feel like your brain has turned into a mushy puree. Before I would fight this feeling and push through and sometimes lead myself to exhaustion. Neglecting my needs has caused my shoulders to ache more often, and has discouraged my creative potential.
Taking the time to connect with friends and family, to plant seeds, to cook, to do yoga and to keep my flat tidy are giving me peace and are keeping me sane. All these activities have now their own dedicated space in my daily schedule, helping me being connected to the present moment, fostering new ideas, and making me feel centred and energised.
- My personal projects reflect what is important for me in this moment.
I have dealt with a lot of different feelings, worried for my family and a few friends and suffered from anxiety, like never before. But it has also been a humbling experience, that has taught me how our ego sometimes gets in the way and distract us from pursuing our true purpose in life. Lockdown has enabled introspection on a deeper level, and it has helped me reconnecting with my creative essence, with what is important for me.
- Celebrating small weekly victories.
The uncertainty we are experiencing can cause a lot of anxiety and frustration, but it also releases the obsession for control over the future.
I have set a weekly schedule system, which has become my Sunday ritual: I highlight the priority of my week (work deadlines, food shopping, cooking meals) and the personal projects for the weekend, then I make sure I balance off those duties with exercise and gardening. Once those tasks are completed I indulge in a “reward”, which can be a glass of wine, a movie, a videochat. This is ideally how my week is planned out, but I allow flexibility so I can move around the tasks on different days, depending on how things work out. I do not overload my schedule so at the end of each week I have some time to use the way I want and feel good with myself for having ticked all the boxes on my checklist!
- Keeping learning and working on my weaknesses.
Sometimes enjoying the process is more rewarding than finishing a piece, especially when you draw something without a particular agenda, just for the pleasure of it. I keep a folder that I can access anytime from my laptop or iPad with photos I would like to draw from. It is always very refreshing and productive at the same time to do this type of drawing exercises. It is also a perfect way to practice your weaknesses and improve your skills.
At the present time, the type of illustration I would like to get better at are interiors, and food illustrations, so I make sure have plenty of images to practice with.
- Building something little by little.
No plan, no agenda, just trusting the flow that happens in the moment, rather than trying to imagine what the end result will be like. Just as all our expectations for the future are paused right now, I am learning to switch off my inner critic and keep going, whenever direction comes more natural for me. I believe that if your work is aligned with your values you just need to keep creating, and it will all make sense eventually.
I think art can have an important role in the world to endure the difficult times that we are living in and to reimagine a fairer society, finding beauty and connecting people. This is the direction I want to give to my work at the moment.
What is your best advice for a happy creative lockdown? Leave me a comment with your thoughts.