10 Things to Do in Lockdown: Holiday Thanks Edition

2020 has been a shitshow of a year. Many creatives have faced serious hardships, others have been more lucky, but overall, no one has had what they’d likely call a “good year.” Part of what weighs heavily on creatives is that all this mental darkness impedes creation. We all feel stuck, particularly now in the holiday season shut down by all the (necessary!) lockdowns. While there is good news with the vaccines, we’re still in for a few months of dark, and in the middle of winter, to boot.

With all that in mind, I thought I’d share a list of 10 things you can do right now, while we’re still in lockdown-mode, to jump-start the little grey cells into creative thought, or at least to shake off some of the lockdown blues.

  1. Go to an art museum online. Looking at other creative work is usually inspiring for artists and doing this can get your grey cells working on new and fantastic ideas for your own work.
  2. Watch a great visual movie. A film with fantastic direction and/or cinematography can inspire. Maybe you’ll see something that you could try to re-create in your own way, as an homage and a personal project.
  3. Draw something. Even if you’re not a visual artist or think you can’t draw, trying to is great for your creative brain. Do something abstract, or play with color–just make something visual. Doing this analogue is best.
  4. Get a buddy (or a couple) and play Add-A-Line online. To do this, you draw something (a doodle of any kind is fine), then you “hand” it to the next person who adds to it (their “doodle” must connect with yours somehow), then it goes to the next person (or back to you), etc., and you keep at it until the page is filled. I encourage doing this non-digitally as much as possible—that is, draw on paper, scan it, send to the next person who prints it, adds their stuff, scans, sends to the next person…rinse, repeat. 
  5. Try to re-create some art someone else has made. THIS IS NOT FOR YOUR BOOK or any other public medium but rather just an artistic exercise. Don’t be sharing the result with anyone in part because you don’t accidentally want to trod into infringement territory, but mostly because this is a personal, internal exercise. Trying to do what someone else has done will force you to think outside of your own head and open you up to new techniques. This works for musicians and writers just as much as for visual artists. Overall, this can result in new thinking about your own work.
  6. Take an evening walk (masked, of course), or drive if you must, and look at the holiday lights. Walking is highly encouraged because the physicality (exercise) is good for your brain as well. Do this, if possible, with your partner/family/COVID pod people but if you can’t do that, how about facetiming with someone distant while you do this?
  7. Organize a virtual group show. Get colleagues (especially from different disciplines) to all contribute work centered on one theme (like a one-item theme, where every work has to incorporate the same item somehow) and plan a party/opening to show the work. This is a great thing to do with clients too who have their own creativity to show. And it’s easier to do online in many ways (although I also love this in the real world, when possible).
  8. Do something personally scary(ish). Jump out of a plane (with a mask and a parachute, of course) or learn to rock-climb, or ski the hardest slope, or catch-and-release a spider, or give a speech (virtually, for now), whatever. The idea is to face something (reasonable—don’t go completely nuts) that scares the bejesus out of you so that you push your boundaries and vulnerabilities. When you do something that scares you and come out the other side of the process, you learn that you can do more than you know.
  9. Make something in your usual medium, but with some significant limitation–like if you’re a photographer and use multiple lights usually, only permit yourself to use ONE light. Or write a poem without using the letter “e.”
  10. Volunteer somewhere if you can, safely, or at least make a donation. Creative or not, this is a great way to remind yourself how lucky you are. For example, my boyfriend and I have been collecting food from our new neighbors for the local food bank—and we feel like we’re getting all the benefit from it.  

And, in that last item’s vein, this year my “thank you” gifts to my clients and all of you are donations to the AIGA and NPPF, to help creatives hit by COVID, particularly. It’s been a tough year for so many of us—sometimes the best thing we can do is to throw money at the problem. 

Here’s hoping 2021 is as good as 2020 wasn’t. 

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