A Covid Creativity Crisis: What I’ve learned

Photo credit: Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

During this third national lockdown I’ve suffered a bit of a creativity crisis. Last year I really enjoyed writing articles for this website and it played a big part in helping me get through the drudgery and boredom of lockdown life. Instead, in 2021, I’ve found myself struggling to think creatively for article ideas and then, when one fleetingly came to mind, I’d struggle to put pen to paper. I now have a new found appreciation for creatives on social media and Youtube who have the ability to regularly churn out quality pieces of content. It is no mean feat and I think it is this ability that is the biggest difference between those that just get their 15 minutes of fame on TikTok or YouTube and those that become mainstream influencers. Below are some further thoughts on this topic and the main takeaways I’ve taken from my own experience of a creativity crisis.

Don’t be in denial

If truth be told, I realised I was in a creative slump way before I finally admitted it to myself. By mid-January I knew I wanted to get back to writing again but struggled to muster up ideas, or even the willpower, to get going. I told myself ‘I’ll write a piece next week’ when in reality, I didn’t believe I would.

I think it’s important to be honest with yourself when you’re struggling for ideas and motivation. By admitting to yourself that you’ve got a problem, you can then begin the process of rediscovering your ‘mojo’ and getting back to doing what you love.

Be kind to yourself and then help yourself

Lockdown has been difficult. There’s no two ways about it and I’ve definitely found this third lockdown the hardest. Whether it be lockdown fatigue, the fact that I moved house in late January, or just laziness, things just seemed to get on top of me and I struggled to find the motivation or the creative energy to write.

That being said, I could have helped myself more. I told myself I would just write next weekend knowing full well that I had already made plans and was not going to set any time aside. I also didn’t do enough research for article topics or reach out to any influencers for interviews. I was not changing anything I was doing and instead was just hoping I would magically wake up one day and write a great 1000 word article out of thin air.

It may seem obvious that action is needed when you’re going through a slump of creativity or motivation but it is very easy to allow yourself to come up with excuses and just coast. What will help is finding mechanisms that get you back into your creative zone and lift you out of the slump. One good mechanism I picked up from YouTuber Captain Sinbad is the ‘2 minute rule’.

YouTuber Captain Sinbad has spoken about the ‘two minute rule’ in some of his videos

The way it works is that if you’re struggling with a creative project (whether it be writing, video ideas, blog posts) then for two minutes you just focus on creating something. It doesn’t matter how crazy the video ideas are, or terrible the writing is, you just have to get stuff down. What you’ll often find is that the two minutes end up being half an hour as you get into it and build some momentum.

Of course, you may try the two minute rule and it may not work but it’s not the end of the world. If you don’t manage to create a Tik Tok, put up a post on Instagram, or film a video for your YouTube channel, that’s okay, but once you’ve taken the break you need, make sure you switch things up and don’t just wait for a miracle.

Communicate with your audience

Sometimes, you just need to take a break. There is often a lot of fear for influencers when it comes to taking a break. Nathaniel Drew, when announcing his break at the end of 2020, spoke about his fear of his audience not being around when he came back. He said:

“YouTube, and all of the algorithms, make it so that you’re always…terrified of losing the momentum that [you’ve] built. There’s a fear that the algorithms will drop you like a rock if you don’t show up often enough.”

This is a very common and understandable fear but it you can really limit the impact a break can have by effectively communicating with your audience. This was seen clearly in Nathaniel Drew’s case. On average, the five videos he published after over a month long break from YouTube averaged 266K views where as his five before his break only averaged 233K. So not only did Nathaniel Drew not lose his audience, his views actually increased a little. The secret? He clearly communicated why he needed the break, how long it was going to be, and how when he was back he’d get straight into making more top quality content.

Creative crises pass, you just have to stick with it

I want my final takeaway to be a really positive one – that creative crises do eventually end, you just have to stick around long enough to see it. It isn’t easy and you’ll find that a voice in your head will be telling you to give up but the truth is that it’s never too late to pick up where you left off.

Yes, you might have lost your momentum and your views/engagement might not be at the same levels as before, but that can all come back and can even come back stronger. You learn a lot about yourself in a crisis and creative crises are no different. In fact, over-time you may come to appreciate them, they give you a chance to recalibrate and ultimately it is your ability to push through them that will set you apart from the quitters.

To those who are going through a creative crisis right now I say hold strong. Tomorrow is a new day and with it comes a clean slate. It’s never too late to turn it around. The secret to getting through a creative crisis is just to get creating, don’t worry about quality at the beginning, just create and get back to doing what you love!

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