How Lockdown Changed Everything I Thought I Knew About Creativity

Ever since I started working, I’ve always had this (some may say irrational) fear that one day I’ll just wake up and stop being creative. Run out of ideas. And basically, not be able to do my job.

I know this is highly unlikely, but bear with me.

A little over a year ago we were plunged into a lockdown, and I thought, here we go—this is the beginning of the end. Working from home is a place where creativity comes to die.

Street sign - Dear London, creativity is a way of dreaming. Let's keep on dreaming

A bit dramatic? Possibly. But to me, what I knew of creativity was sparked from in-person interactions, experiences and different environments. Pretty much everything that was put on hold, not just for me, but for the entire world.

Now, I don’t often like to admit this, but wow, I was so wrong. What lockdown unlocked far outshone what it took away.

When something happens that is outside of your control, you are met with a decision. Accept it or run. I’ve never been any good at running (and the borders were closed anyway), so by default I chose to embrace the change. To use lockdown as an opportunity to discover new outlets of creativity, challenge myself and evolve the way I had gotten so used to working.

Even more than a year later, I still don’t feel like I have or ever will fully crack the secret to endless floods of creativity, especially from sitting alone in my living room (if someone has, please let me know). However, despite this, there are three stand-out things I like to think got me pretty close:

1. Appoint temporary consultants

The stranger and more removed, the better. Much to my boyfriend’s and family’s delight, they have involuntarily become my sounding board and breath of fresh air when I’ve been stuck in a creative rut. Sometimes even the most unexpected people can redirect your mind to unthought-of territories and new perspectives. Even if 90% of what comes from it is highly questionable, the other 10% can be nuggets of gold.

2. Do nothing

I am a self-confessed busy-holic. I really hate doing nothing. So one of the hardest things I tried to change is allowing myself to get bored and slow down my 100 mph mind. Because believe it or not, boredom is actually a good thing (even science says so). Boredom triggers mind-wandering, and mind-wandering leads to creativity. My trick? I stare out of the window. Not in a creepy or emotional music-video way. But there’s something about focusing on an empty, still space that helps to reset the cogs and let the beginnings of ideas peek through.

3. Feed your mind

Don’t get me wrong: going from a 30-minute to a 30-second commute definitely has its perks. However, it’s safe to say passing the kitchen on the way to your desk and sitting alone all day doesn’t exactly provide the same amount of stimulus as a train or car ride. So naturally, like everyone else in lockdown, I’ve had to make even more of an effort to consciously feed my mind. Making time to watch documentaries, listening to different genres of music, keeping a close eye on all-things-culture with different newsfeeds (recommend: Popbitch and HypeBae) and noting down references from colleagues to explore. Yes, it takes a bit more thought than previously, but it’s helped me and my work to level-up.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret: Although we are all currently longing for a smidge of “normality” to return, this is the one thing I’m hoping doesn’t go back to normal. These three things, born out of lockdown, have taught me to view creativity in a completely new light, forcing me to challenge myself in ways I never would have previously, so there’s not a chance I’m leaving them at home when the world starts to bounce back.

In terms of the irrational fear, is it still there? Yes, a little. But what this last year has taught me is that creativity may come from your brain, but what inspires it can come from anywhere. Any place. Anything. Any person. And that’s something that will never run out, as long as we keep looking.

Emily is a Senior Creative at Ketchum London. She has worked in the PR industry for over six years, starting her career in account management before making the jump to the creative side. She is passionate about producing culture-first work inspired and driven by powerful human insights.