I think we can all agree the last year and a half has had a profound effect on everyone. As writers, it’s safe to say we’ve all been changed in some way or another. I can tell you that in the last eighteen months my creativity, as well as my mental health, have taken quite a beating. My normal writing processes have been completely derailed, leaving me wandering through my drought-stricken imagination, searching for any trickle of inspiration.
So, now that things are opening up, how do we pull out of the funk and get the creativity flowing again? Here are a few ideas that seem to work for me.
I know it sounds simple and that’s because it is. I’ve been staring at the same walls for so long I know every cobweb in every corner of my office, so a change of scenery works wonders. I never thought of taking the dog for a walk and breathing some different air for a few minutes could make such a difference, but when I’ve been in isolation for so long, it’s a game changer. Listening to the sounds of outside life and trying to describe the tree, flower, or bug I just came across is a good mental exercise that gets the brain cells chugging along again.
When I say go for a drive, I’m not talking about running errands or getting the shopping done for the week. I just fill the gas tank and drive aimlessly. I might take that road I’ve always wondered about but never turned onto before, or slow down and really look at the places I pass every day but haven’t paid much attention to. If I see a house that catches my eye, I might make up a story about the family who lives there, or maybe someone who died and now haunts it.
I’m also lucky enough to have a vehicle that allows me to get off the road and explore the deserts and mountains near my home. Ghost towns, old mines, and long abandoned structures offer loads of inspiration.
When everything shut down, a lot of things got messed up. Familiar routines were disrupted and the places we escaped to had limited access or shut down completely. We lost our comfort zones. I had certain pubs I would write in because the character of the location (as well as the people) inspired me. Returning to those places has opened doors in my brain that were slammed closed during the lockdown.
I’ve also been able to return to the Musical Instrument Museum where I volunteer, and it’s done a lot to get me inspired again. Every piece in every display has a story, as do most of the patrons I have the opportunity to interact with.
This one is a biggie. Reconnecting face to face with people again has helped my mental state. While I’ve enjoyed the time spent on video conferencing and chatting over social media, there’s nothing that recharges my soul like catching up in person. We’ve all got that one friend we lost touch with (maybe even before Covid) that always brightened our day when we sat down and caught up. It’s time to look them up, invite them out, and spend a few hours laughing, crying, and just reminiscing.
This one might sound a little selfish when you have family and friends who have suffered as well, but self-care is important. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be doing them any good either. Rediscover that one thing that made you happy before all this pandemic stuff. It doesn’t matter if it’s something no one else in your circle enjoys doing—do it for yourself.
I help take care of my spouse, my in-laws, a few outlaws, and any other strays that might happen by. When it all gets to be too much, I escape and sneak out to the antique mall (thank God it’s open again). It’s my happy place that I don’t have to share with anyone else. I find things that remind me of my childhood and go on treasure hunts for whatever inspires me that day (usually old cast iron skillets).
There’s no doubt the world has changed and will never completely return to life as we knew it, so we have to adjust. In truth, the world never stops changing from the time we’re born until we draw our last breath, so we’re used to adjusting to whatever comes next. Things just happened a lot faster this time. My best advice is to slow down, take a deep breath, and give your brain a chance to catch up.
What impact has the last year and a half had on your creativity and productivity? What have you found helps you deal with the changes? Let us know in the comments!
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Eldred Bird writes contemporary fiction, short stories, and personal essays. He has spent a great deal of time exploring the deserts, forests, and deep canyons inside his home state of Arizona. His James McCarthy adventures, Killing Karma, Catching Karma, and Cold Karma, reflect this love of the Grand Canyon State even as his character solves mysteries amidst danger. Eldred explores the boundaries of short fiction in his stories, The Waking Room, Treble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins, and The Smell of Fear.
When he’s not writing, Eldred spends time cycling, hiking and juggling (yes, juggling…bowling balls and 21-inch knives). His passion for photography allows him to record his travels. He can be found on Twitter or Facebook, or at his website.
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