With Ho Chi Minh City being under heavy lockdown, it can be be easy to feel demotivated, deflated and lacking in inspiration. For many of us, our work relies on our ability to be creative, so the lack of external stimulation can take a toll on our psyche, productivity and more. Having read Austin Kleon’s ‘Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad‘, we thought we’d share with you a few of Mr. Kleon’s tips on staying creative, applied to the predicament we currently find ourselves under. These approaches can carry you forward past the lockdown, and enrich your creative-professional life for good!
#1: Make lists if you feel stuck
Lists come in handy when trying to jump over creative stand-stills. A list can be of the more pragmatic nature, such as a to-do list; or contain the more abstract – a list of our hopes and dreams. Lists get straight to the point and helps you refine your choices or options. When dealing with demotivation, or a general feeling of having no clear direction, you can take a step back and think about what you wish you could get done, and write those things down. Next, think about what you can do now, despite the lockdown, to help you achieve those goals. Maybe you plan to expand your business or side-gig, well now would be a great time to work on your website, social media plan, etc. Write all those things down onto a list. Find clarity and identify the things you can tackle now, and start there. Creativity comes from doing. Once you get the gears going, new ideas will come. If you find yourself grinding to a halt, you can always move down your list, and keep going.
#2: Build a ‘Bliss Station’
A ‘Bliss Station’ is a place or time where you can retreat away from all external distractions and solely work through your ideas. Great ideas need to be incubated, refined and worked upon before being ready to be introduced to the world. A Bliss Station can be a physical place, a specific time, or both. This is where you are safe to go on tangents, experiment and be playful with no pressure from the outside world.
Being stuck at home, it is too easy to get swept up in the day-to-day; and if not controlled, could lead you to feeling you can’t ever get anything done. Instead, take time to excuse yourself from the flow of mandatory house-work, family life, or other domestic distractions and step back into your Bliss Station. Play, dream, work and let your ideas breath, ferment, and grow. Once the lockdown is lifted, your bag of ideas will be fully-stocked, fully-formed and ready to be revealed to the world.
#3: Take time to research, study and reassess
As human beings, we tend to flock to those who share similar world views, preferences and interests as ourselves. Unknowingly, we become isolated and monotonous in thinking. This bleeds into our work, where feedback is reinforced by opinions of the similar; possibly leading to mundane results. We can’t change if we don’t step out of our comfort zones. With time on our hands, there is no better time to research and be exposed to new ideas. Be open to new ways of doing things ; listen to that podcast you’ve always been curious about, but never thought would resonate, or take an online course in something you always deemed ‘boring’ (I took a course about the role of finance in business recently and it has completely changed the way Paperbacks operates!). Revisit your past or current works and reassess them with a critical lens. Be exposed to new ideas. Afterall, to grow is to be able to instigate change.
From this research, we may glimpse new ways of doing things and be able to improve our craft. It is okay to have bad ideas and to deliberately play with them during this ‘down’ time. Use the lockdown to be critical and hopefully, carve out a new and exciting path to embark upon!
#4: Stay Active – “Forget the Noun, do the Verb”
All too often, we assign labels to ourselves. Many of us want to be “creatives”. According to Austin Kleon, we should re-frame our thinking and realise that creativity is simply a means to an end. We use creativity to solve problems to achieve a goal.
“Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title without the work”.
If you’re feeling melancholic and uninspired during this lockdown, rethink the noun you’re aspiring towards. Your noun shouldn’t just be “creative”. Be more specific. Maybe you’re working on your Youtube channel. Well then your noun is ‘Youtuber’ and one of your verbs can be ‘edit old footage’, since you probably can’t shoot anything new at the moment. Then, use your creativity to make the best video possible. This is where having a to-do list on hand will help you. Don’t get into the trap of romanticizing the inactivity, and seeing it as a mandatory process of being creative. Creativity is a tool and you should be able to control it; not the other way around. You aren’t being creative if you never create anything. Forget the Noun and do the Verb!
We hope everybody is healthy and keeping safe. These are tough times but this too shall pass. Stay indoors, stay curious and stay creative. Thank you for all your continued support!