Social distancing yourself from an artistic slump

by Georgia Laity |

There is no denying that we are currently living through a historic moment in time. One day the year 2020 will be the focus of questions in GCSE history papers. There will someday be entire chapters dedicated to this episode of our lives, in textbooks. And for many of us, this is a disorienting idea to come to terms with, the concept becoming a source of immense stress. For some, this could manifest as pressure to be a part of something important, pressure to be productive, and pressure to make future generations, and our future selves, proud, when we look back on what we did during the pandemic.

Coronavirus lockdown has changed almost every aspect of our lives, and for artists, writers, designers, or other creatives, this has been either a blessing or a curse. You can see all over social media, people using their unexpected down time to rediscover forgotten passions, or adopt new hobbies: painting, baking, playing music, writing, or, for those of us living in Cornwall, trekking across the South West countryside, and exploring local monuments. On the opposite side of the spectrum though, many have found their creativity stifled by health-related anxiety, the loss of old routines, and the current lack of movement.

‘people [are] using their unexpected down time to rediscover forgotten passions…’|Alice Dietrich/UnSplash

If you find yourself fitting into the latter group, allow me to recommend a few ideas to help you find inspiration, and the motivation to create once again:

First and foremost, it’s so important, especially right now, to let yourself relax and breath during any free time that you can get. This is particularly crucial if you are among the many essential workers labouring long hours, and putting their safety at risk to keep society functioning. Trying to force a creative breakthrough will most likely have the opposite effect. According to Bayes-Fleming, initially, the hormones produced by stress in our brains may stimulate performance, however, the long term effects of this pressure may make it difficult to come up with creative concepts in the future, and could even lead to problems with memory.

pushing yourself may limit your imagination…

Instead, try putting your feet up, being patient with yourself and allowing inspiration to wash over you in its own time. This may feel counterintuitive; it is often human nature to strive to be productive when matters feel out of our control. In actual fact, having a clear, definite vision in mind when sitting down to paint, write, play, or draw, and pushing yourself to see it through, may limit your imagination.

My next tip is to do nothing. Hear me out. Sandi Mann, a senior lecturer in occupational psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, suggests in her book ‘The Science of Boredom,’ that in order to overcome a creative block, you should allow yourself to be bored. At the outset, this sounds peculiar; many of us have been socialised to associate boredom with failure. However, Mann suggests that distancing yourself from constant noise and distractions, and embracing boredom instead of fighting against it, may actually allow your mind to wander to places and perspectives that it wouldn’t have if it had been confined to one specific idea. In this sense, she suggests that boredom acts as a “catalyst for creativity.”

‘do nothing’ |TonnyTran/Unsplash

Mann and Rebekah Cadman discovered in their 2014 study to test this theory, that participants who had been initially asked to perform boring, menial tasks, were able to easier think up more imaginative ideas when then asked to undertake a creative assignment, than those who had not. So why not try it? Allow yourself to be unfocused and indifferent, and see if inspiration strikes.

producing art is personal to you…

If you find that your creative anxiety persists following these suggestions, I would definitely recommend collaborating with a fellow artist on a small, low maintenance project. Something that won’t require too much commitment, but will be substantial enough to kick start your imagination. Being able to bounce visions and concepts off of one another, can massively help with stimulating your flow of creativity. As they say, ‘two heads are better than one.’ Additionally, collaboration with others will give you the opportunity to make connections within the industry, with artistic individuals who have the potential to awaken you to entirely new perspectives and viewpoints on your shared interest.

Most of all, remember that the process of producing art is personal to you, and that while there is no definite formula to relieve an artistic slump, taking care of yourself mentally and physically will undoubtedly help you along the way.