In lockdown and running out of ideas? Six tips to stay creative

May 12, 2020

7 mins

In lockdown and running out of ideas? Six tips to stay creative
Gabrielle Predko

Journaliste - Welcome to the Jungle

You’ve seen them on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook: those creative minds blossoming under lockdown! Whether it’s through creating art, making clothes out of old curtains, or just finding inventive ways to adapt at work to this strange time, being creative is a new survival skill. For some people in lockdown, inspiration is more elusive. We tend to think that not being able to go out or meet others dulls our creativity. Fortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case: there are many ways to get the creative juices flowing, even when you’re stuck at home. With help from Jean-Marc Moncorger, author of Créativité – Un Nouveau Regard? (Creativity – A New Look), we’ve got six tips to help you awaken your creative potential.

Why do we feel the need to be creative in lockdown?

Whether we have a creative job or not, waves of inspiration and creativity take hold of some of us when we’re stuck at home. Why does this need to create a sudden surface? Jean-Marc said: “What’s certain is that even in normal times, everyone creates in one way or another. Some more than others, and it varies from time to time. In lockdown, many people really increase their creativity. Some theories suggest that you must feel as if you’re missing something in order to create. This isn’t always the case, but it’s so true at the moment that it may help to explain this increased creativity. At present, we miss our freedom, we miss our social interactions, we miss our routine, we miss the usual solutions that we have to guide our lives. So we look for them elsewhere, using our creativity.” We should embrace this, even in times of crisis, because it allows us to innovate in our jobs, to find smart solutions to our problems, and, above all, to flourish on a daily basis. So, it’s in our best interests to nurture this, whether we have a creative job or not. So how do you do that?

How do you develop your creativity in lockdown?

Start by accepting that you won’t succeed straight away

While this may seem counterintuitive, we can assure you that this advice is actually positive and will help you.

We often put off getting creative because of the fear of failure. We’re afraid to invest the time in something without necessarily knowing how to go about it and we fear being disappointed with the results. So we procrastinate. At times like this, when there are few things around that stimulate us, how do we deal with that? For Jean-Marc, you need to understand failure and even to gain inspiration from it. “People often think creativity is ‘having an idea’, but actually that’s just the starting point. After that, you must be able to evaluate and test the idea, in other words, try it out. There’s always an ‘expected’ result and an ‘actual’ result. If the two are pretty close, so much the better – but that’s rare. Often there’s a wider gap, and that’s fine as well. You just need to learn how to accept it and move forward.” Moreover, what is often called “failing” is actually “learning”. “The fact that we may have missed achieving something can open doors for us, as we’ll have eliminated a hypothesis,” he said. “An obstacle provides information that encourages reflection and can allow us to go a step further than our initial idea.”

All the little failures are actually experiences that will feed us with the information that ultimately helps us to get closer to our original goal, little by little, or even improve upon it. “Imagine someone going fishing for the first time. That person will rely on all the knowledge they already have of the subject. They then cast their line and wind it back in. If they don’t catch anything, then that will give them information to perhaps try elsewhere on the riverbank. Creativity is the same. In fact, this process is often done all day, every day, without us even realizing it.” Mistakes are an integral part of the creative process and shouldn’t be discouraging. In drawing, beginners are often advised to draw with ink or not to erase their work so they can see their mistakes and learn from them. “Failing” is just part of learning. So, if you have an idea for a new communication method, graphic design, or any other project for your company, don’t assume you have no chance, just go ahead and do it!

“An obstacle provides information that encourages reflection and can allow us to go a step further than our initial idea,” Jean-Marc Moncorger

Feeding your mind

Indeed, at the moment we can’t explore our environment, visit exhibitions or exchange ideas with others in the ways we are used to doing. But does this have to block our creativity? Of course not! According to Jean-Marc, you can create anywhere: “Creativity is everywhere, and there are people who can create in the toughest conditions.” To develop this capacity, take advantage of the current situation to nourish your mind, educate yourself and treat each day as a new start. “To move from a ‘normal’ state to a creative state, you have to add ‘elements’. In order to create a chemical reaction, you have to mix things together. It’s the same with creativity! Creativity doesn’t magically descend from the sky. Monitoring current trends is a great place to start, but it can be very time-consuming.” The internet and social networks can offer plenty of content for inspiration. But expand your horizons beyond what you know and love. Delve into disciplines, niches, aesthetics, or even sounds that you don’t know and perhaps might not like initially. Developing ideas also involves engaging in activities that make us feel good and that put us in the right mood to create in our free time, such as cooking, completing a puzzle or watching a good movie. Try preparing a list of activities that make you happy and aim to incorporate them into your days, as these can be things that will really stimulate you.

Do some mental gymnastics

When we were kids, we had no problem finding the inspiration to create. We’d have good ideas every two minutes and we were never afraid to try them out – even if it meant dying Barbie’s hair blue or painting our bedroom walls black. With a little training, this creativity can be reclaimed. Try finding inspiration during lockdown by learning how to play again and doing some imaginative exercises. Observe your neighbors and invent a crazy backstory about them. Play games with those around you that allow you to project yourself elsewhere by, for example, creating a fort in your living room or role-playing. Create a story around a historical character. Project yourself into unfamiliar places, worlds, or eras. Look at objects that are familiar to you with a new and critical eye. Put yourself in the shoes of a movie character and imagine what you’d have done differently. All these exercises will allow you to rewire your brain, gain new perspectives on the world around you and boost your creativity at work.

Challenge routines

According to Jean-Marc, we are particularly creative when constraints are imposed on us because we have no choice but to come up with solutions: “You know your daily journey to work off by heart. But if you come across something that interrupts the journey, you’ll devise a path that previously didn’t exist [in your mind] and therefore, you’ll be creative in finding a solution. It’s the same with work itself. There are protocols that exist and are no longer questioned, and others that do not yet exist and that will have to be created.” Try using this lockdown period, during which you may not have the same resources as before, to be innovative. Are you short of equipment? Try using different things and maybe you’ll end up preferring the new tools. Even if you have everything you need, you can create constraints to help force new thinking and refresh your outlook.

It can be interesting to observe what you do routinely at work and what you are no longer questioning and then to try to understand what you might be able to do differently. Our brains constantly push us to move toward what we already know, but creativity is about moving toward new things. “Our brains work against us,” said Jean-Marc. It saves energy by automatically directing you to what you already know. To create we must first draw inspiration from what we already have in order to respond to the constraints we face. When we’re cooking and find that we don’t have an ingredient, for example, we use our knowledge to think through what we could replace it with that would work. It’s about trial and error and testing hypotheses. Viewed that way, it’s exciting to be in lockdown because you don’t have access to all the resources you needed previously. So you have to dig deep into your brain to find fresh solutions: this involves changing the existing into something new. For example, people who craft at home often use a selection of things they find lying around. Creativity is a big part of all these little actions.

“To create, we must first draw inspiration from what we already have in order to respond to the constraints we face. Like when we cook and we’re missing an ingredient.” Jean-Marc Moncorger

Breaking down the task

Are you afraid to embark on a creative task because you don’t know where to start? Breaking it down into several steps will help to make it less scary. Whether you want to draw something, create a new charter for a client, compose a song, write an article, establish a social media strategy, whatever it may be, you should create a detailed plan for all the steps of your project. You could start the day before by creating a mood board, figuring out the tools you’ll need, or making a draft. “Breaking down an activity into a set of smaller tasks can really help you to understand creative work when you’re having trouble getting started. I remember when I was a teenager, I played the piano and couldn’t play a jazz score. I had to play four or five chords, and I kept failing. My teacher told me to break down the piece and it really helped me to progress.” Dividing your work into different, small goals will make it more manageable.

Allow yourself to get bored – and to contemplate

This is perhaps the most accessible, though not necessarily the easiest, advice on this list. Right now, boredom is all around. But this is good for creativity because when we daydream, our brain has every opportunity to create neural connections that wouldn’t otherwise have been established. So take advantage of the lockdown to allow yourself to feel bored or to engage in simple activities that help you to be passive: listen to music, do some coloring, sit out on your balcony or in your garden if you have one and let your brain guide you. Avoid filling every moment of emptiness with thoughts or frustrations. Instead, allow yourself time to wander, to daydream, or just to contemplate your surroundings.

Listening to Jean-Marc Moncorger, being creative is child’s play – even if you must sometimes unlock certain, perhaps unfamiliar, parts of your brain to achieve it. So, take advantage of this time to tap into your creativity. We all have it in us.

Translated by Andrea Schwam

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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