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Creativity in Lockdown: Sped Up or Slowed Down?(Three Things I Had to Change)

June 22, 2020

When the UK hurtled into our form of lockdown back in March, I wrote a paragraph on my Instagram about how I resolved to embrace the newly-slowed tempo of our life at home. Harv and I were placed on furlough, B’s school was closed and little M suddenly got all his family back at once.

While aiming to help keep our family- and the community around us- safe from the virus by staying home, I also made the conscious decision to, well, not be too conscious about Crow & Apricot. My creativity could wait while I nurtured my kids, helped B through the set schoolwork and enjoyed time as a family. This was also to distract myself from the worry over relatives’ health and the disappointment in not being able to visit them. I watched my world become tiny and slow, we were curled up together in a nest-like state.

My eldest is obsessed with drawing. She draws and writes almost compulsively. Immediately our home education became mainly art-based. When it was more maths-based, we still turned to her visual learning style in (literally) illustrating the problem. When we did an outdoor activity, she’d come back and creatively document the experience, making nature collages, feather quills. I guess what I’m trying to emphasize here is that I hadn’t really, fully, realised just how much I had influenced my daughter creatively. Whether nature or nurture initially, I was certainly nurturing it now, and so to ignore my own creative passions and ventures at this point would have been daft. It was already there and present in our household, and my daughter’s rapidly-expanding sea of drawings, doodles and stories was inspiring me.

I started to write a children’s story, inspired by our walks. I didn’t always get out on these walks with B and her dad, as I sometimes stayed home with the baby, but I got enough of a report from an excited daughter to turn these into some form of story. Three drafts later and I am still working on the illustrations. I’m excited, but not going to force it to completion until I feel it works and I’ve tested it out on some age-appropriate friends.

I tried not to fill my brain up with working in the evenings. But it happened. I kept getting ideas and, beyond the book, I started to fill up my free time with more and more art-related projects. I had a website in the final stages of being built, a Youtube channel that needed tidying up, a children’s book in need of a redraft, and then some commissions started coming in.

I was in danger of overloading my free time with Crow & Apricot but, as many of you may also find, I was building a business. I AM building a business, and maybe it just needs all this time to be spent on it. In order to avoid the negative effects of overloading myself with too many projects, I made 3 changes:

  • Designate A Space. Art sometimes needs to be left mid-project and picked up whenever convenient. Especially when you’re working during the baby’s nap-time and they unexpectedly wake up. Up until that point, I had been using the kitchen table to work, to pack orders, to do everything really, and it was in the way of everyone as well as the really important things at the moment: B’s home schooling and family mealtimes. So Harv and I worked our socks off to turn a dingy little utility cupboard into an office/studio space for my art. We did it on a shoestring. At first it felt a bit indulgent to have a whole room for my own venture, but you can only just fit a chair in it, and it really freed up family space in the house. It was a form of self-care to do this, and by helping myself I have been more available to those around me.
  • Acknowledge and Adapt. Different times of day dictate differing energy levels, and so I could choose which project to work on according to those. In the morning, I write my blogs. In the evening, I work on drawings. Some days I didn’t want to do any at all, or didn’t have the energy to, if the baby had been up all night teething. That was totally ok now. If I really needed or wanted to do art in the daytime when all the family were home, it had to synch up with whatever B was working on in her homeschooling so that we could sit at the table together and I could be on hand to help her.
  • Resist the Urgency. I was not going to get everything DONE before the Lockdown Lift. There are a great many memes out there to do with people trying to write complete novels during the lockdown period. While some have probably managed it, Crow & Apricot was not set up during lockdown; the ideas were all there years before. It therefore needs to continue and evolve beyond this one weird year. If I rushed to finish all my ideas- the book, for example- then I’d not only be doing myself a disservice, but I’d end up classing my business as a ‘lockdown business’, something that was fuelled by the current climate. In truth, it has taken the past 12 years to figure out why I do art and how I can use it to connect with people.

So, that’s where we’re up to for now. It is amazing how many little pools of productivity and inspiration you can find when you lift up tiny rocks of time, so my advice to anyone struggling with creative momentum would be to go easy and think small for now. It also goes without saying that not everyone wants to optimise their free time and fill it with projects. To have the time to do this is, for me, an immense luxury, but that shouldn't come with guilt attached. In these very strange circumstances, some will just be happy to take a break from working at home, from home-edding, from the countless Zoom family quizzes, and just watch some telly or go for a run. That’s just as key to wellbeing and will in turn inspire the creativity when the time is right for it to return.

Jo @ Crow x