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How do you keep creative in the midst of an extended lockdown?

A blunt focus on productivity alone does little to understand the challenges of maintaining focus and creative output in the midst of a global pandemic.

Nicola Kemp

Managing Editor, BITE

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How do you solve a problem like keeping creative in extended lockdown? The flurry of articles from industry commentators on how to work from home already feel like a lifetime ago. Swiftly followed by an equal flush of commentators and industry experts proclaiming that they had been working from home long beyond the crisis, deeming the articles superfluous and the debate in itself over before it had begun. 

Of course, this approach, perhaps penned from the confines of a never-to-be-disturbed home office, negates the diversity of experience of life under lockdown. It ignores the fact that the working from home goalposts have fundamentally shifted; the parameters of time, space, and emotional and physical availability in the midst of a global pandemic are far from universal.  

A childfree CEO in a spacious home office with an outside space cannot teach a working single mother of two neurodiverse children how to do three jobs simultaneously, that of mother, teacher and creative leader. Likewise, a strategy director who lives on her own, struggling with isolation and anxiety has a very different set of challenges to face. So, while we scoff at the notion that we need to ‘teach’ people how to work from home, an ongoing conversation about how to keep creative and keep your head up in the midst of uncertainty is nonetheless necessary.

From everyday hacks to the need for humour and human connection by sharing the ups and downs of life under lock down, individuals within the industry will have a better opportunity to not measure themselves by impossible standards. For now more than ever the highly competitive creative industries need to collaborate, as organisations and individuals, in order to thrive.  

With this in mind we asked a selection of industry experts to share their advice on how to keep creative in extended lockdown. 

Banner image © Natalie Narh // Latch Productions

It’s challenging to passively create something authentic, so give your mind the space it needs to be great.

Natalie Narh

Natalie Narh

Natalie_1.jpg

Social Content Creative // Vice-Chair

Ogilvy // Ogilvy Roots

For the first few weeks I did nothing. I finally didn’t have to 'create on demand'. I allowed myself to simply exist for a few days and be inspired by the things that mattered the most to me. It’s the first time in a while since I’ve had autonomy over when and how to create.

In terms of how to stay creative during lockdown, music has always helped me. Creatively, music was my first love. As I’m writing this I’m listening to Chloe and Halle's new album Ungodly Hour. This album is particularly important because it represents a shift in their outlook and how they’re “creatively coming of age”. I think that’s reflective of where I am in my own journey in advertising. Ajebutter’s song Bad Gang also recently inspired me to illustrate a collection of characters that depicted the vibrancy of Ghanaian, Nigerian and South African street culture.

Try out a fresh creative discipline, work on open briefs, explore new content and follow creatives you admire. It’s become popular to improvise with productions tools, so take advantage of that. There’s less pressure to get it perfect the first time. 

Most importantly, be patient with yourself. It’s challenging to passively create something authentic, so give your mind the space it needs to be great.

It’s good to be bored, so we should take this unusual opportunity to embrace it and capitalise on its creative potential.

Simon Long

Simon Long

Simon Long.jpg

Executive Creative Director

Intermarketing

Boredom.

It’s one of the biggest creative forces. If you ask people to do less, or nothing, to the point when they get bored, then they become creative and start thinking of novel and productive ways to stimulate.

Many of us do have the time, now. Whether we like it or not. We might be on furlough; we might be forcibly idle because work is in abeyance; we might be busily WFH but spared the hours a day we used to spend commuting. Perhaps, despite all other pressures, we want to fill that
time well.

Letting your mind wander without the usual day-to-day distractions can be a really useful way to alleviate stress and solve problems, boosting productivity and creativity in the process.

It’s good to be bored, so we should take this unusual opportunity to embrace it and capitalise on its creative potential. Those who do could just be the undiscovered genius behind the next big campaign, app, book, film or artistic masterpiece.

Stay safe. Stay bored.

Most importantly, fall back in love with being creative. No boundaries, no deadlines, no briefs.

Mickey Jones

Mickey Jones

Mickey Jones.JPG

Creative

Freelance

Someone once told me that ideas are just thoughts in your head. Suddenly, the dread of staring down a blank page…vanished. Our brains are built to constantly think thoughts; it’s second nature to us. So, in order to address our relationship with creativity, especially during lockdown, we need to address what creativity actually means to us. If your consciousness is the root of your creativity, you’ll never lose the ability to be creative. Unless you’re sleeping. Thank god for dreams.

The digital sphere is booming, and the world is talking online more now. So, listen in on those conversations and find the human truths that could form your next passion project. Find problems that quarantine has brought to the surface. Figure out what exactly you want the next stage of ‘normal’ to look like. Take the time to tune back into hobbies long forgotten, listen to the podcasts and read the books on your waiting list, check in on friends and family. Most importantly, fall back in love with being creative. No boundaries, no deadlines, no briefs. Do it for you and be selfishly creative.

In theory, lockdown should be a dream for the creative thinkers lucky enough to be allowed to bask in controlled solitude.

Dom Sweeney

Dom Sweeney

Innocean UK-Dom-Sweeney.jpg

Head of Creative

Innocean UK

Solitude and creativity have, for a long time, flaunted the social distancing rules, happy bedfellows according to countless psychologists and naval gazers, none of whom I can be arsed to Google and quote here. Creatives have long needed time spent apart from the world. Virginia Woolf claimed that loneliness gave her wisdom and creativity, while my mate Mark was a little less poetic, claiming that ‘open plan offices are a bunch of shite’ as his eyes go dewy at the memory of a closable door, that could be used to block out the unwanted interruptions that he blamed for his half-grown ideas.

So, in theory, lockdown should be a dream for the creative thinkers lucky enough to be allowed to bask in controlled solitude. No trains to run for, or trains of thought interrupted. Time and space, according to that clever so-and-so John Cleese, are essential if you want to think creatively. The stylists will disagree; Google what Edward de Bono said about those. For them, a cross pollination of ideas and techniques is vital. But that’s craft not creativity, and lockdown has made me feel properly creative again. Plus, I’m not keen on hugging people so, happy days.

Watching culture creators adapt to virtual events has been inspiring.

Alec Samways

Alec Samways

Alec-Sep-2017.jpg

CEO & Head of Creative Strategy

Splendid

I am lucky to be working safely from home and doubly lucky to be by the sea. A walk or run unveils beautiful sights on my doorstep. Headspace for thinking and reflection is helping. I hope we in the PR industry make positive lifestyle changes as a result of this time.

More time with my kids, their outlook on the world, the stuff they’re into and home schooling opens my eyes to new ideas. We’ve been doing acting exercises, writing poems, making stop-motion films and of course making lots of Tik Tok videos.

Watching culture creators adapt to virtual events has been inspiring especially in my passion area, music. The whole Splendid team logged onto the Defected Records virtual festival and had a proper group moment, despite being apart.

We’ve had to adapt creative processes for lockdown. As well as fruitful video conference sessions we’ve developed remote idea generation processes that prove getting away from the office can be liberating.

We’ve continued team inspiration processes remotely. Our themed Tuesday Tune Club collaborative playlist will always be on my speakers, bringing the office vibe home.

Splendid Loves on Friday is a meeting we all look forward to. We share interesting stuff we’ve seen throughout the week. It might be a campaign, a social purpose initiative or some great artwork. It’s a good way to look beyond the PR industry and set our own bar high.

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