By: Alec Concejero
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely altered many of our norms and daily routines, to the extent that we are forced to see things in a different perspective. Work from home has become the new standard for many employees, and business operations have been operating at a minimum among certain industries to reduce the risk of spreading the virus among employees and customers.
Similarly, musicians, artists, painters, designers, and dancers have all been hit with a wave of despair: their inability to show off their craft. Creatives take inspiration from everything around them, especially new experiences, new people, and new places. But now that we’ve all been shut off in our own homes, how then do these creatives spark their imagination and get their creative juices flowing? What gets creatives writing music, painting images, and working on their talents in this new normal?
Joseph Marasigan, better known by his stage name Joseph Gregory, is a singer, rapper, songwriter, and producer who experienced the struggle of being a creative during the pandemic. “As a creative, it has been hard finding inspiration to work on things. Some creatives can work with the conditions (like Taylor Swift or Charli XCX), but with everything that’s going on, it has been a challenge coming up with stuff, although I churn out a couple good ideas once or twice. Mentally, I think I am getting by, though,” shared Joseph.
“Quarantine has been rough among creatives, economically and mentally. I know people from my circle who are taking hiatuses to focus on their own general wellness, and it is hard to make ends meet because of a lack of gigs & opportunities,” shared Joseph. But while the pandemic has been an overwhelmingly negative experience for everyone, it still has a few bright spots here and there. “Having all the time in the world to sit down at home and work on something is more apparent now,” he said.
Joseph adds: “I miss the gigs, man! Seeing people vibe to your stuff is a different experience, especially because my last few gigs before quarantine started were really good. I miss regularly going into the studio and collaborating with a lot of artists in person as well.”
Kai Javier is another creative who has had her fair share of experiences under quarantine. An AB Multimedia Arts senior in De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and a freelance designer, Kai shared her secrets in staying creative for the last few months, and the ups and downs of designing while at home.
“I’ve been having a lot of time to myself to make art, and I’ve gotten to practice more and really develop my own style. I’ve also been able to have time for more commissions and I’ve taken up internships that are related to the field that I want to pursue – advertising and branding,” Kai said.
Aside from doing more work and improving her skills, Kai was also able to start her own personal projects. “I was also able to make more personal art – a lot of creatives find this difficult to do because when there are work and school, all of the art and designs that they create are controlled and restricted by other people or clients and designers barely have time to make stuff for our own enjoyment,” she shared. But despite all the time and effort Kai put in, some struggles are still inevitable for creatives. “Some of the bad things include: creative block and lack of motivation because it’s so easy to get lazy just being at home,” she said.
And despite being a home-based artist, Kai can’t help but reminisce the times before the pandemic. “I’ve always been home-based but I miss taking inspiration from the outside world, because I’m the type to usually use inanimate objects/nature as inspiration for my work. I also really miss having a work environment where I could talk to more people and getting inspiration from art exhibits art fairs because the experience is super motivating for artists! Now I mostly get inspiration from online like Pinterest or even the music that I listen to sometimes, and oddly enough my own home because I’m used to working from home before the pandemic struck, but definitely not this long! Aside from those, I think it’s also critical to be inspired by current events so that one can grow as an artist and make relevant art. For me, posting online can be motivating because everyone’s on the web right now so you can reach so many people that motivate you to make more art when they react or interact with your art on social media,” she shared.
The freelance designer suggests to her fellow creatives: “Don’t be scared of creative block because it really happens. I sometimes have a block for weeks before getting motivated again because usually I get super demotivated. But when I finally have the energy I go all out and make a lot of stuff, art, and designs in a span of a few days. If you want to grow your platform as a creative don’t be scared to use your art as a way to communicate how you feel about current or relevant issues: everyone’s online so it’s good to contribute to spreading important messages by making art that’ll reach and influence other people. Lastly, find inspiration in the small things and work from there: if you have ideas but don’t have the motivation to work on them, take note of these ideas so that you can bring them to life when you have the energy. Explore websites like Behance and Pinterest, or follow more creative accounts on Instagram to be surrounded with inspiration all the time! It helps a lot!”
Writing isn’t any different. I myself find it hard to consume literature as a means of inspiration during these times. Reading books and novels need a certain sense of engagement to be able to interpret the written works of someone else, but in an age where video content is accessible and much more affordable than literature, it’s hard not to give in and join the Netflix craze.
I find myself binging movies and K-Dramas more than reading and writing in the last few months. It’s difficult to get the pen to the paper (or more accurately, fingers to the keyboard) and write away that personal essay or short story I’ve been meaning to. When every day is drowned out by the monotony of repetition, it truly is hard to find inspiration.
What I find effective to shake me out of this quarantine slump is to remember my goals. What do I want to achieve, and what should I do to get there? It’s best to remember that whether you go on a short trip or a long journey, you have to start with that first step. Getting a crack at things and just starting something is already a big feat in itself.
The standard of productivity should be much lower than before during these uncertain times. While we struggle to survive this pandemic, we also have to stay at home, earn a living, watch over our health and our family’s health, do chores, all the while stressing over the lack of proper government response to COVID-19 and our own lack of social fulfillment while being disconnected from family and friends that we’ve been used to seeing anytime we want. And yet the standard of productivity has very much gone up, with businesses, schools, and sometimes even friends having such high standards for work, academics, and online hangouts. Staying at home has blurred the lines that divide work, study and personal time, and we are paying the price.
I think the best way to stay motivated is to understand that we don’t have to operate at 100% all the time, but rather just to get through day by day. Don’t try to commit to things that are more than you can handle because you’ll just end up burning yourself out. As ironic as it sounds, I believe that motivation can come from an idle mind like when you’re in the shower, answering nature’s call, or taking a peaceful walk. That’s why I always keep my phone handy to take down notes in the chance that I would get inspired and motivated to start something.
All in all, it seems evident that being creative in quarantine is a struggle. The best way we can support any creative is to give their content a chance. If someone you know posts music on a streaming platform, give it a listen. If your friend posts a piece of art on social media, like it, comment on it, or even share it. If an old schoolmate posts an article, just give it a quick read, and maybe even give him some feedback if he asks for it. Like any other problem thrown at us, the human race always finds a way to adapt – by helping each other out and moving forward together.
The beauty of art, music, and literature is that they are not bound by a single source. You can use that work of art – whether they come from your peers, your idols, or maybe even your own thoughts – to fuel your creativity. You can take everything in and use it as inspiration to start something, no matter how small or crude or simple it may be. Like the saying goes: you can’t rush greatness. Remember to take things one day at a time, but keep your mind open for any possible inspiration because you never know when it will hit you.