Writers' Blockdown

8 April 2020

Let's get creative!...or not. Issy Flower gives you advice on protecting your muse.

At the moment, you can’t move on social media for people desperate for other people they’ve never met to be creative. Every hour of the day, it seems, you have to be writing, watching, reading, listening, tutoring your kids (even if you don’t have any), learning fifteen languages and developing a six-pack. There’s too much of it, it’s too pressurising, and in a time when many of us are just struggling to get out of bed in the morning, frankly preposterous. 

People need to remember that we’ve got TIME. Masses and masses and masses of time. Which means that, yes, you can binge watch all fourteen series of First Dates while eating popcorn in bed – it’s allowed, it’s a thing, regardless of what the Twitter police say. Creativity never flourishes if you’re being pushed or pressurised into it. This is even the case under deadlines. There’s a reason why often you’re given a week or two to allow a spark of an idea to develop, rather than being rushed into writing the first thing that springs into your head. That way leads to madness and, even worse, cruddy literature.

So that’s the first step to being creative in quarantine: don’t be. Renounce creativity if you don’t feel like it. Put the brakes on your mind and just, to coin a phrase, vibe for a bit. Everything else is so intense and dramatic at the moment that it can tire you out – please don’t make that worse by forcing yourself to compose a symphony.

But if it grips you, it grips you. If the muse takes hold, let it. Don’t waste your moments of enthusiasm and desire. They are all too precious. Even if they come halfway through a granny from Preston telling you about her worst date – write. Them. Down. Revist it them later when you’re in the mood. It’s so often the case that ideas will spring out of nowhere and then burst into life when you’ve had some distance from them. 

Similarly, collate your life. preserve your experiences. Take charge of your own memory and sift it for points of interest. Find the Pinteresque images and make notes of them. It’s a way of being creative without being creative: you’ve already done the work, in the past, and now you can think and take inspiration from a life that might’ve passed you by as it was happening.

But, equally, now that life isn’t really happening, in so many senses, enjoy those lives you might never have experienced. Don’t let people force you into watching and reading and thinking about prosaic Best-Of lists churned out by a Guardian writer desperate for sustenance. Sniff around the strange and esoteric. Find out where the influences of your favourite people came from. Equally, chuck on your favourite childhood TV show on Netflix and go wild. A key aspect of the creative spirit is discovering and internalising brilliant things that you might never have thought about before, and now’s the time to do it. 

Our free time is the greatest thing we have to play with now: as creators, as consumers, as people. Use it to relax and recharge; also to discover and write and think. But, overall, don’t let any keyboard-warriors force you into doing any of these things—not even me. this article is only an expression of my own distaste for the militaristic notions of work and creation that are seeming to be bandied about at the moment. what we all need to do is take a step back from the computer, re-evaluate what we want to do, and do it. After all, we’ve got the time to do it. 

@noffmag / [email protected]

Photograph: Beatrice Debney