Creating in lockdown

Now that we’re coming out of our second lockdown, as well as taking stock and looking forward and making plans, I’ve also been using this time to re-visit my previous ‘to-do’ lists!

One hundred plus days of stringent lockdown has not been the easiest thing to do but I did find that having a list of what I wanted to get through was indeed what I believe saved my sanity!

Creativity is truly essential for mental health and more so I feel whilst we were living through so much uncertainty! Of course there are the usual everyday things we need to do to get through; eat, sleep, exercise and our daily routines which give us purpose. I also found that I really needed to bring more creativity into my everyday, more than I would normally – more baking and cooking certainly ticked that box for me too!

It was in my art practice however that I found I was floundering! Yes, I would go into my studio at the usual time in the morning but then after looking at my list I would just daydream or flick through reference books or social media instead! My mojo had taken a break and I was having constant panic attacks at my lack of productivity. Yes, I was embracing being kinder to myself, we were in the midst of a global pandemic after all but it was more than that and I knew if I didn’t do something about it I would just sink deeper into the hole I seemed to be happy to just sit in ’till it was all over!

I found I was only able to concentrate for short amounts of time too. This was pretty confronting as pre-pandemic it was easy for me to lose track of time whilst I was printing or making and spend hours in the studio instead of getting dinner ready! This was new and uncertain but unlike when I’m creating, it was not fun and I felt I had nothing to show for a whole day in the studio. I missed my creative groups and wondered how they were all getting through this time. They seemed to be so busy and productive! I needed to connect again.

I was still making lists but found I wasn’t getting through them so I decided to revise them completely and for the time being make a weekly list of what normally would’ve been daily or two days and forced myself to fifteen minutes at a time to ‘creating’ or ‘concentrated play’. This time wasn’t always for what was on my lists but more like forced ‘brainstorming’ or what I considered research! I also made lots of notes – not necessarily to action but just having thoughts written down meant I could revisit and add to later – hopefully providing inspiration for down the track. I needed to find some joy every day!

I took more photographs of birds and flowers on my daily walk and tried to focus on the beauty around me and tried not to worry too much about being ‘productive‘. I doodled, drew and scribbled randomly in my sketch book and cleared out boxes of printed scraps and began sewing lots of quilt blocks to use them up. I found that fifteen minutes sometimes grew to two hours, not every day but more often. I actually gave myself permission to ‘lighten up’ and this eased my own self-imposed pressure.

To my surprise and relief, I had actually accumulated quite a body of work. Looking back now, I reckon I have inspiration for a number of prints to come based on those sketches. I also have put many of the quilt blocks which had seemed quite random then but now have come together quite nicely. Strange how subconscious can sometimes work as most of the things on my list which I found so hard to do are actually now done from all my accumulated fifteen minutes creating!

Even when I was ‘distracted’ for an hour or two rummaging through my fabric stash it seems now I was vaguely putting them in order for another quilt top! Happily, I managed to finish a few really old works-in-progress which were already near completion but I’d put aside to finish in the future sometime!

So whilst I wasn’t quite feeling IT I’m happy to say that taking comfort in the little things and still making even though it wasn’t what I may have originally intended, actually pulled me out of my doldrums and kept me on track, or close enough! Some people have comfort food and I admit there was quite a bit of that too but I reckon I must have comfort creating! My quilt makes in iso have been very traditional, more basic and simple but now they’re done I’m so pleased I can now move on to more challenging pieces. A little bit of work but more often has resulted in much more than I expected. It seems I needed to lose myself in the routine and safety of ordered patchwork blocks while my creativity was on R&R!

NOTE TO SELF: lists are necessary but don’t get too hung up on them! Priorities DO change so try to relax and be kinder to yourself. There’s more than one way to do things and unless you try you won’t know if it’ll work for you! Creatives are often nagged by their own doubts – STOP being so hard on yourself!

So, now I’m excited again and enthusiastically looking forward to getting that rotary cutter in hand and sewing up something different! My batteries are recharged and my mojo’s back! Now I feel some improv quilts coming on! Let the creative juices flow!!

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