Over the last several weeks, several months, truthfully, it’s felt like everyone I know, including myself, has been running on empty in most areas of life. At the very beginning of this “new normal” period, every day was a bit of an unknown. From not really knowing how long the pandemic was going to last, to not really knowing how life at home was going to work.
The challenge to reconstruct life to fit around this new state of the world is constant. Some people are still dealing with that reconstruction as the rules and regulations of pandemic conduct constantly change. And though we’ve hit a bit of a stride now with everything going on, some of the routines we’ve fallen into have become both isolating and stifling. For me, that has most notably shown up in my creativity.
As writers, one of the things that fuels us is our ability to create — the inspiration to do so striking anywhere at any time. But when our creative energy is depleted, it can make even sitting down in front of a computer screen or simply seeing a pen and paper an extremely daunting task. For me, just being in the same room as my laptop makes me anxious and exhausted.
So, to combat this lack of energy, I’ve employed a few strategies that I hope can help you out whenever your own creative energy is lacking.
Step away from everything for a set amount of time.
Being in front of our work all day, whether it’s at some kind of desk arrangement or in front of a computer or both, can be not only mentally taxing, but physically and emotionally taxing, as well. My partner and I talk about this a lot. The toll that it can take on a person to never feel like they are actually disconnected from their work is massive, and it happens little by little. People who weren’t used to conducting all of their life at home now have to, and it’s led many to always being “on” and plugged in. Whether that’s been for their jobs, their partners or their children and household pets. Regardless, it’s one of the easiest ways for most, if not all, of our energy to be drained, creative or otherwise.
So, to help get your mind moving again, try putting physical distance between you and your work. For however long is possible, especially during working hours. And the physical part here is key. By putting actual distance between yourself and your work, you’re allowing not only your mind but your whole body to really breathe. Even if it’s just for a half an hour or fifteen minutes, leave the tight and constricting atmosphere of work and head somewhere more calm. Our apartment is pretty small, so it makes it difficult sometimes to have that physical separation for me and my partner, but escaping to either our bathroom or our bedroom works just as well.
As much as I can, rearrange my workspace arrangement or work somewhere new.
No matter where or how I’ve worked in the past, I have always been someone who gets very bored with my workspace very quickly. Once the novelty of it or even the arrangement of it has worn off for me, I get antsy and fidgety and it makes it a lot harder to concentrate on whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing.
When I was in a traditional office space, I would get up from my desk and work someplace else like the tables and chairs off to the side of the main desk area; the kitchen; even a coffee shop on days clients weren’t coming into the building. Doing that felt like someone had pressed the reset button on my whole day, especially when it felt like I had absolutely nothing left to give.
With the necessity of social distancing and ensuring that we’re being safe so we can keep others safe, a lot of us by now have likely run out of “new” places we can go to actually do our work in. So, try rearranging the orientation of your workspace or even working in unconventional areas of your home, as much as you can, and follow how you feel about it. Even if it’s strange, it might just be the thing you need to get your creative engine started again.
Spend time outside away from hubs of people and noise and just be.
Before the pandemic, taking a walk outside, even in highly populated areas, was a wonderful way for me to relax and unwind, and get my creative brain back. But, again, because of the necessity of social distancing, being in areas with a lot of people has become an anxiety-inducing activity that causes me to run out of energy even faster than usual.
I started going to places around my neighborhood during times when I’ve noticed not a lot of people are out just so I could just exist by myself. Sometimes that place is even on our front porch when there’s not a lot of traffic and the weather is relatively nice.
Doing this gives me the opportunity to clear the noise from my head and replenish my creative energy. If you can get out to a spot with a lot of trees around, I highly recommend doing that, too. Being in nature and connecting with the world around you can help reduce your stress levels, helping to make room for more creativity.
It honestly can be hard to get started on any one of these things, let alone all of them. But making even small steps toward changing up your every day routine can help in resetting your creativity if it’s in need of a little reboot. Because putting physical distance between you and your work, changing the physical set up or location of where you work, or just stepping outside to connect with the world around you, might be all it takes to restart your creative engine.
Jenn Walton is a writer, editor and storyteller based in Washington, D.C., whose fiction works are housed mainly in the speculative genre. She has completed her first novel project that explores, through the lens of a failing utopia, what happens when society gives in to its fear of the other. She previously wrote for a communications firm where she drafted and edited sponsored and organic content for top-tier academic institutions, Fortune 500 companies and leading philanthropic organizations that has run in The Washington Post, USA Today and the Atlantic. For more from Jenn, please visit her at her website or on Twitter.