This crisis has become real, for all of us, in different ways. Plenty of us have had time stolen, rather than gifted, by this horrific pandemic. Many of us really are struggling to pay the bills. Some of us don’t know what to do with ourselves. Those of us in marketing, arts and creativity, in general, are among the frontline* commercial casualties, and there may be little we can do about that aspect right now. The damage we might be able to contain, however, is the assault on our sanity. But if we’re going to survive this, the darkest timeline, with our sense of self intact, we’re going to need to find something within ourselves.
Wait, don’t go. I promise this is not another pep talk*.
I wholeheartedly recommend you ignore the LinkedIn Inspo Douchebros (and yes, they are relentlessly ‘bros’) who claim to be using lockdown to triple their passive income stream, read 117 books, write three, and simultaneously learn Mandarin, C++ and the Oboe. These guys are dipshits. And they’re liars.
If getting out of bed is your daily Everest right now, we salute every step of your climb: you’re doing enough, you’re doing ok. I’m here to tell you that, if you’re a creative, and a human, you’ve automatically got a couple of very powerful crampons to help you make it a little farther on your ascent: your creativity and your humanity.
I don’t claim to understand the neuroscience of it, but the act of making something is, unfailingly, a positive experience.
When so much around us is getting destroyed, creativity becomes an act of resistance, of rebellion. A way for you to tell yourself that you don’t have to fully succumb to the madness coming at you via your newsfeed.
If you’re not fortunate enough to be asked to be creative on behalf of a brief or a paycheck at the moment, be creative on behalf of yourself. Even better: be creative on behalf of someone else. If you’re feeling daunted by the thought of creating something right now (and if you’re not feeling daunted, I suspect you’re on stronger narcotics than I), then scale back the expectations and widen the definition.
I’ve recently been inspired by few small creative acts that have brightened my day no end.
A friend who curates a semi-ironic online playlist for co-workers to tune into on their ‘WFH’ radio station; a colleague who is using her recently-acquired yoga certification to guide her team mates on an introduction to the practice, via Zoom, every Thursday morning; the student putting social distancing rules into genuine perspective by chalking popular 1.5 metre high objects on the pavement outside her home. So far, she’s drawn a flamingo, an alligator and Danny Devito.
Each one of these people are getting way more of a kick out of it than they expected. Each one is planning on doing more, doing differently, doing better (however they want to define it). For no other reason than they simply enjoy it.
Creativity is good, but it’s even better when combined with your humanity.
In the weeks leading up to Iso, I had been investing in my own skills and making a concerted effort to expand my circle of connections. Learning different styles of facilitation, gathering a few new strategy techniques, attending mini-hackathons and the like. Putting myself ‘out there’. And I had been reasonably effective on both counts, as a slew of new connections and introductions started to open up, some focussed on business opportunities, but mostly just genuinely interesting people with good energy and open minds.
That’s absolutely one of the things I felt a real sense of loss for, once the gravity of the pandemic started to reveal itself – the loss of connection. I’m hardly a networker at the best of times, but it dawned on me that I could easily emerge on the other side of the Covid crisis with a reduced circle of colleagues. Perhaps even fewer friends.
If I was going to reverse the trend, it would have to be up to me to be more human.
So I’ve been messaging people***. All sorts of people. Old friends, new connections, people I’ve admired from afar. I’ve been active on Facebook groups (which I swore I would never do). I’ve been responding to semi-cold prospecting emails. Sure, it feels a bit weird sometimes, but I comfort myself with this undeniable fact: what the fuck doesn’t feel weird right now? And I’m yet to have a negative response when I ask another human: hey, how are you holding up?
As for my own creativity? I’ve combined a very early passion of mine (woodwork), with the desire to keep our youngest daughter excited by the prospect of schooling by distance. We spun up a homeschool wood tech project, in the form of a recycled shipping pallet day bed. Not only was it good fun, it also created another ‘outdoor room’, a precious commodity for a family of four living in an apartment during lockdown. Triple bonus: teaching one of my favourite young humans how to use power tools was a real buzz.
We’re seeing creativity emerge in all sorts of unexpected places right now, but getting here seemed to require the presence of an important precursor chemical: boredom. Like a junkie hitting rock bottom, it was as if we all had to scroll right the way to the very last page of the internet before we could look up from the screen, take a deep breath, and decide to go do something.
I fear that this always-on, always entertained, always content-rich environment that bandwidth has afforded us might just be numbing us to the low-level pain of boredom. Just maybe, that pain is what many of us need to find our creativity, our humanity and, ultimately, retain our sanity.
Stay safe out (or in) there, people.
* And we’re not even on the real frontline. Our comrades in healthcare, aged care, retail and education are the ones making real sacrifices.
**I lied. This is another pep talk. I just hope it’s the pep talk that at least one person needed to hear.
*** This is an open invitation: send me a message, if you feel like it, just for the hell of it. I’m @barrieseppings on Twitter and my DMs are open.
About the Author:
Barrie Seppings is the Founder and Director of The Transfer Desk, a Brand Strategist, Creative Director, Copywriter, Facilitator, Novelist, Motorcyclist and Surfer.
This post first appeared on The Firebrand Talent Blog.