Utterly Uninspired? The Pressure To Be Creative in Lockdown

Artwork by Jess Aleo

Since lockdown begun the world has both sped up and ceased to exist. There was panic, hysteria, an onslaught of information – yet it all seemed outside of the four walls I was trapped in. The whole word was affected yet reaction varied from person to person, country to country. Some people were almost bed bound, whilst others preached about the ‘opportunity’ presented by the copious spare time. 

Many found the time to start a new hobby or progress their creative work which is a positive, but it almost became a trend on social media to boast about ones lockdown achievements, showing off just how much you had made, read or done from your bedroom. It felt quite overwhelming, as no one was posting about their days in bed, so mine felt almost dirty as I scrolled through post after post preaching progression. 

I am a creative person who has found this period utterly uninspiring. For me, the world around had almost ceased to exist, and the weeks merged into one as I glided through lockdown in a haze. But my emails were still full, I was still expected to attend online university and simultaneously become a banana bread baker. I found it quite shocking that it was expected to remain almost hyper-productive when I felt so unproductive, which only fuelled my inability to create. I am really happy that so many people have been able to dedicate time to their practice, but for me the rose-tinted ideals of how I should be coping with lockdown only pushed me farther away from any progress. 

This period has allowed me to actually slow down and take time for myself – whether this be in bed or not – and detach myself from my usual high paced lifestyle. Although I originally viewed this as a positive, the pressure from social media and the shame that ensued has led me to a different perspective. I am also lucky, as for many this period has been about something completely different. Key workers are made to continue regardless of their reaction to the pandemic, and many who are not receiving furlough pay are finding themselves and their families in desperate situations. There has been so much craze online about bettering oneself, staying productive and sharing your triumphs, but no one is as keen to share the darker moments with the world. Many are mourning, unemployed, struggling mentally. Why are we so obsessed with pushing productivity and positivity, even when the lives of many are irrevocably changed?

This is not a new thing for our society. We are always striving for more, but these ideals have become more visibly pronounced as our usual social structures are torn apart by the virus. We live in a society which is built upon hyper-productivity and the need to outdo everyone and everything. Our economy is collapsing and we have gone into panic mode. What else can we do but produce from home and spread the message online, when messages of support and community are the ones needed? 

Creativity is not something that can be forced, and arguably may be hindered by the surmounting pressure. It is ok to be unproductive and look after yourself, because it is more important to be mentally and physically well than successful for social media, especially in times like this. Although this time has presented many with the opportunity to achieve, it has presented more with personal struggles. Both are valid and should be supported, as this time should be used to bring people together instead of pushing them apart and alienating those who don’t react as you do. Do not feel the pressure to be anything other than ok whilst everything is on its head, and maybe this will provide the clarity you need to create. 

Written by Isobel Gorman-Buckley