Have You Lost Creativity During the Pandemic?
Discover why dulling sameness squelches productivity and how to improve it.
Posted March 19, 2021 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
These unusual times of being sequestered at home and away from routines create havoc in many ways. People find they have less productivity, creativity, and imagination. They do not think clearly or constructively. New ideas do not flow. They cannot write, draw, or create music. They rotely go through tasks and work assignments.
Our Difficult Times
We have intrusion from others as we share physical space. Time alone is hard to get. Adults deal with child care and schooling their children, all while working their jobs remotely and often in the same room.
We worry about catching COVID, what the future will bring, and how we logistically and emotionally manage present circumstances. We ask ourselves many worrisome questions: When will this end? What have I lost? What have my children suffered? Will we be the same down the road?
We experience dulling sameness, even claustrophobia, in the same apartment or house, not going places, and not seeing family and friends in the flesh.
What We’ve Lost
The results of these times are that we lose our ability to imagine and create anew. New ideas do not come forth. The well is dry. We cannot think or write creatively. We feel we are in a fog bank, with disjointed and fragmented thoughts. Our worlds feel shrunken. Small things like getting groceries assume large importance and risk.
Commonalities With Exhaustion and Incarceration
We find the same conditions during the pandemic in people who are overextended in arduous training and jobs––such as medical school and emergency rooms––or with those who work on oil rigs for weeks at a time. We hear similar reports from workaholics, CEOs, and entrepreneurs who work 70 hours a week or more. Incarcerated people also report similar difficulties with daily sameness. These people report losing their productivity and ability to sustain creativity and freshness.
Why do people who are sequestered during the pandemic, those overextended with many work hours, and those imprisoned battle the same inability to be creative? To understand this, let’s look at psychological functioning as being similar to the way an engine works. An engine needs fuel to run, and people need psychological fuel to operate at creative and fulfilling levels.
Psychological fuel comes from both new experiences––novelty, and from rest––doing nothing. We also find psychic fuel in the adventure of repeating old experiences anew. This involves getting outside our four walls.
We need both time and space alone and for meeting people for talk and relaxation. We need to go to new places as well as visit old haunts––the library, stores, restaurants, theaters, music venues, and parks.
We need adequate, good-quality sleep. We need opportunities to vacate––to still our minds and have nothing going on. Input of adequate psychic fuel equals output of creative thoughts and behaviors and a sense of well-being.
Solutions for Lost Creativity
We suffer from the crushing sameness in our lives during the pandemic. How do we acquire fuel for our psychological selves when we are sequestered in daily sameness? The answer lies in forcing yourself to break out of your sameness.
Get away from your four walls. Go outside and walk or sit in a park. Get in the car and take a day trip through nearby towns. Enjoy the spring that is coming in the northern hemisphere. Sit outside and read. Go hiking or fishing. Build something outdoors. Plant a garden.
Drive to all your favorite places and reminisce about your past times hearing music, seeing plays, eating out at those venues. Grab take-out food, eat in your car, or have a picnic. Meet friends at a park, maintain social distancing, and wear masks.
If you live with others, plan a themed day or evening for everyone to dress up in costumes and match the costumes with preparing an associated cuisine––Italian night or Mexican, Asian, Spanish, or Thai. Plan a night where the kids cook for parents and parents stay out of the kitchen completely and relax elsewhere.
Set aside several hours where you have time alone when no one can bother you. Trade off doing this for each family member. Spend this alone time lying fallow, drawing, reading, or sleeping. Do whatever relaxes and regenerates you.
After trying some of these things, you should feel some spark of your old self returning, the spunky psychological self that has some fresh fuel and nourishment. You may even have some creative and productive ideas popping up in your mind. No doubt you will be psychologically rejuvenated.
Alison Flood, "Writer's blockdown: after a year inside, novelists are struggling to write," The Guardian, 19 Feb 2021.
Annemarie Dooling, "Doing Nothing Can Make You More Productive," The Wall Street Journal, 17 March, 2021.