Lockdown – obstacles to creativity?
Looking first at some of the barriers to creativity – we are clearly prevented from exploring our full potential if our very existence is too precarious. We seem to have a hierarchy of needs whereby we need to feel safe, with sufficient food, and enough money – say – to pay our bills.
This means that, if the conditions of our lockdown threaten these very basic necessities, anxiety and stress levels may then reduce the amount of cognitive resources we have to pursue more creative outlets. And this is, unfortunately, the reality for many people at the moment.
For others, this period of lockdown may be even busier than usual, as we try to juggle working from home with caring or homeschooling demands. Again, this doesn’t leave much in the tank for creative pursuits.
Changes for the future – time to think it through
But for those who don’t find themselves in this unhappy position there’s another side to lockdown, too: the opportunity for overcoming complacency and stagnant routine. Maybe for many people life had become too predictable, too comfortable before the recent pandemic? And in this case, there is a possibility that for some people, this period of adversity may galvanize them into making changes for the future.
In fact the creativity literature suggests that there is sometimes a flowering of creativity in difficult times – such as international war, political instability, and civil disturbances. Necessity really can be the ‘mother of creation’.
So, for many people, the current lockdown has given us the space to challenge what we previously accepted as ‘the norm’ – whether that’s our work-life balance, our relationships, or the way we spend our time and money. This means that for some it could be a catalyst to making meaningful changes to those aspects we are less satisfied with.
Life-changing decisions like this tend to be taken after careful consideration – so-called ‘System 2 thinking’. Here we weigh up the evidence on one side or another and evaluate risk; and having an enforced period of ‘slow-down’ gives us the headspace to do this, which we would not normally have had in our usual bustling existence.
New ways to spend our leisure time
Lockdown also gives us the space to play, to explore and to take on new or rediscovered challenges. Whether that’s trying out a few words of Spanish, assembling a jigsaw, painting, tackling a crossword or playing a board game, we are free to engage with fun and creative activities during lockdown.
Newspaper and magazine pundits have written many pieces trying to guess why so many of us are nurturing our sourdough starter, jogging or digging our garden – and there’s many theories out there! So we are running a large scale survey to find out more: do join us here.
Everyday triumphs and inventions
With our usual patterns of living disrupted, we may also find ourselves needing to employ ingenuity – everyday, or ‘little c’ creativity – to cope with the new logistical issues we are coming across. So we might perhaps be wondering how to combine various store-cupboard items to produce something different but tasty; or how to re-purpose everyday objects in unusual ways, to replace items we can’t get hold of.
And many of these activities – whether solving a tricky puzzle, devising a new recipe, or finding one particular piece in the jigsaw – will give us an ‘Aha!’ moment – a buzz of pleasure linked to the brain’s reward system. There’s a very real sense of achievement, happiness and fulfilment involved, and that might help to provide some of the cognitive stimulation we may be missing, compared to our life before Covid-19.
Taken altogether, this means that creative and innovative thought can be curiously satisfying, purposeful and spirit-lifting, even during these most challenging of times.
Hobby montage – ‘8 ways to stay creative’ – Arsh Raziuddin, The Atlantic, April 17 2020
Keeping busy – Alyssa Powell/Business Insider, March 31st 2020