I'm sitting at home (of course, we all are) in what I believe is week 5 of our self isolation and #stayathome trend to help flatten the COVID-19 curve. I find it so interesting that one day I'll re-read this post or someone will stumble upon my blog and this will be sitting here for posterity.
Like so many others, this entire process has been an ocean of change. Like the tides, we ebb and flow--- one day I feel invincible and strike everything off my to do list. From work admin and content creation to practicing my guitar and studying French on the Duolingo App. Others, I am in a fog. Bleary eyed, and hunched over, the weight of the entire world literally resting on my shoulders.
When the global shut downs started, more and more entrepreneurs and influencers were calling for us to "use this time to write that book!" "Make that art!" "Do the things you've always wanted to do but never had time for!"
To be honest, I was angry. Here I am usually managing through my days with an underlying anxiety that I am not allotting enough time to my own creative endeavours. I'm not writing enough of my second novel, or querying more agents for my first novel. Or researching how to self-publish. Or finishing up my assignments for my Editing Degree (because why not have 15 projects on the go?). This, on top of juggling clients and doing work that actually gets me paid.
Now here we are, trying to keep our heads above the water during a global pandemic---people are dying, healthcare workers are literally facing death on a daily basis, jobs are being lost, airlines are grounded, borders are closed and even attempting the grocery store to get the essentials is giving me palpitations. Then you expect me to sit down and tackle all of those creative projects that I've been mentally drained of doing in normal times, right now?
So no, I call bullshit and you should too. This is a time of survival and while it may not feel like we are at the front lines of a war and we are able to stay in the comfort of our homes (while not the case for many others), with food, booze, Netflix, Wi-Fi and time outside unlike other countries, we are still dealing with the onslaught of news and media updates. Our social channels we used to use an escape have become a constant reminder of this global crisis. If you don't want to "take advantage of this time" you don't have to. Maybe you have kids at home and you and your partner are trying to adjust to working from home, and now being the sole educators in your children's lives. Maybe you struggle with depression or anxiety. Maybe you draw a lot of your own mental health on being out in the world surrounded by people. Maybe you're single and live alone without the possibility to visit friends and family.
Maybe just waking up, showering and eating well is enough today. Maybe tomorrow you stay in yoga pants and drink wine at 1pm. Never has the expression, "you do you" resonated more with me right now. So while some days I tick some items off, and yes, even get some writing done, I'm over the rule or pressure that during this current climate of a global pandemic is somehow supposed to equate to MORE productivity and creativity.
I'm over the rule or pressure that during this current climate of a global pandemic is somehow supposed to equate to MORE productivity and creativity.
I'd like to leave you with one of my favourite quotes when dealing with highly emotional times: "Focus on the light" which is loosely taken from an Aristotle quote. And how about you, dear reader? How are you holding up throughout these days of social distancing and self-isolation?
I'm sitting here at a local coffee shop, the sunlight streaming through the windows, full cup of hot coffee beside me and waiting for that "spark". You know the spark I'm talking about right? That one that apparently happens to the brilliant minds around us when they're in creativity mode, their next masterpiece right around the corner.
I finally got out of the house after a short week (Monday was a holiday here), had work piling up around me, working into the evenings most days and little life admin tasks popping up. I threw my laptop in a bag, drove to the cafe with resolution to just write. But here I am an hour later looking at a meager 450 words on the screen. And it's not for lack of ideas. I actually have a good idea of where I want the next stage of this novel to go but I am just feeling so stuck lately.
Can anyone relate? I'm trying my hardest to blame it on anything possible: oh, it's just winter, feeling long and tiring and zapping my creativity; I have too many other jobs on the go (you know, the ones that actually keep my lights on); I just need to look up this one thing (two hours later I've fallen down a rabbit hole and seem to be trying to find out whatever happened to that Red Power Ranger); oh it's time for a snack, and a healthy cookie would be great, but I don't have any on hand so I better dig out the mixing bowl and get cracking on those.
I've been doing a lot of work with The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron lately and from my own googling (read: procrastinating) I know a lot of this lack of "motivation" or "creativity" comes from doing anything BUT what you should be. Are you a painter? Then just pop up that easel and get some paint on the canvas. Writer like me? You just need to plonk your bottom on the seat and start writing. It can absolutely be rubbish (and on those days where I am really fighting that dedication, it often is junk) but the habit is there. Growing a teeny tiny bit every time I fight the urge to fall down an Instagram hole or hit some interesting click bait on Facebook (ya, why won't they hire Brendan Fraser anymore?!).
I'd love to hear how you find that spark you need to get started. Is it being in a certain room that "means business" or going to your favourite spot in a local cafe?
And if it isn't obvious already, I need your tips because of course, this blog post has also become a way to procrastinate (shh, don't tell anyone).
Some of the books I look to for inspiration when I find my personal motivation lacking
Or clubs of any type really. The important thing is that we have clubs and communities where we can belong. And I'm talking old fashioned, face to face meet ups where you can see, feel, and emote with other humans. Social media has created this entirely other universe where we can connect, grow and yes, even create a community. And while this is great, hell, as a freelancer who works from home, if I didn't have my online community, some days I would feel incredibly lonely (cuddles with Kingsley aside).
But I read this incredibly interesting article from Buzzfeed News this week: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation. While it's a bit of a longer read than we millennials are used to these days (it's not a perfectly packaged video that fits into the 60 second time limit of Instagram? Or three paragraphs under a cute photo in your feed? Let's be honest, sometimes even those feel too long to sit through), it had sound bite after sound bite that I couldn't stop reading. It was all so real and true. And what's even more, I was just trying to vocalize similar feelings to friends and family recently.
I have a great recurring gig that pays my bills, feeds me, and allows me to put money away every month, with the freedom to take on clients here and there with interesting jobs or brands I want to align with too. I have time to do my own writing, like my novel, A Week at the Woods' or manage and work on this blog. I'm able to do all this from the comfort of my home. I don't battle traffic, or have to sit on a crowded train to get to work. If I wanted to, I could work in my underwear, leave my hair unwashed for days (seriously, how many days in a row is it socially acceptable to use dry shampoo? Asking for a friend!), and never leave my home.
But that's just not how I work for a number of reasons. But one is that I'm quite a social person - years of office life filled with travel and event networking mean it's just part of who I am. And two, the pressures of the online world, or the millennials who do it all, can get to you a lot more if you choose to go it alone. I've actually found that the more my online and home office life grows, the more lonely it can become. When I open Instagram, I'm rarely scrolling through friends feeds to like their cute photos, I'm trawling for content, or sharing likes and spreading brand awareness. I have six different Instagram accounts I run and manage. SIX. When I open IG, more often than not, it's a cause of anxiety. Facebook is just the same - I manage seven pages on FB. Do you know how many notifications I get in a day? For someone with borderline OCD, seeing constant notifications on my lock screen makes me want to run for the hills some days. But it also forms the bulk of my business and is something that I love doing and is what keeps me going. It's just a side effect of the world we live in.
It helps to remember that there is an entire world outside of online that was always there. Like when we were kids (yes Millenials...before we had cell phones, or at best, the Nokia 6310 with changeable face plate), and we could just pop over to a friend's house for a visit. We'd knock on their door and hang out, or as we got older and needed an escape from university or work stress, head over for a glass of wine or coffee for casual conversation, and more importantly, connection. This doesn't happen anymore. If you haven't texted me to tell me you're coming over, and I hear the doorbell ring, I ain't answering the door. And I know I'm not alone here!
I had some girlfriends over last weekend for book club. It was my birthday weekend and I was so happy to have these amazing friends of mine over to help celebrate, while it may not always be about books, it's what initially brought us together and let these friendships grow. And the way this club came about? When I first moved back to Ottawa, aside from a handful of very close friends I kept in touch with since moving away almost 10 years ago, I had to start meeting people all over again. Do you know how hard that is when you work from home?! So I joined Bumble BFF (hey, it helped me meet my boyfriend, why not some girlfriends?), met a bunch of fantastic ladies, and after a Bumble BFF double date with a few (totally adorable right?) we started a book club. And this, this regular connection with peers is what I was so missing.
When I first moved to London, I had a look online at meetup.com (before there was an app for that!) and found The Girly Book Club hosted by the lovely Erin Woodward (and BFF of a hometown friend of my sister's back in Canada!) Being able to connect in these ways makes us all feel a bit more human and bit more connected to the real world around us. So those days when we feel like we haven't been "offline" work at all, or the stress and anxiety of living and working in today's landscape of constant notification, it helps to have a safety net to catch us.
As we head into winter here in Canada, I'm wanting to get cozy and hibernate but I'm also wanting to try new things that keep me cultivating those real connections. Every year I try to select a few things that I know will push me out of my comfort zone but that also help to connect to new people, new things, new hobbies. And with that comes so much more than growth.
How about you? How do you stay sane in an online world? Do you have any clubs or hobbies you would recommend trying? I'd love to hear from you!