Creativity Under Quarantine: How Restrictions Give Us More Freedom

The Coronavirus quarantine removes all the excuses we used to have, even for people who are busier now.

Many talk about how the COVID-19 quarantine has given them so much time to explore and create new things. Not me. I’ve got a full-time job and 2 kids at home all the time. But even within those limitations, I’ve discovered that the quarantine has helped remove excuses and made me more creative than before – but only if I choose it.

We have dreams waiting for the ideal moment

There are things we want to do, but the timing just isn’t right. Maybe it’s to pick up a new hobby or skill. Perhaps it’s start on a new project or even career path. Or it could be to develop certain habits and routines in your life.

But there’s never enough time. We don’t have enough money. Our skills aren’t quite there yet. But someday, we’ll start.

Sometimes these are legitimate reasons, but most of the time they’re just excuses. This is me.

For this year specifically, I’ve wanted to start vlogging and podcasting. I even wrote about it as being one of my New Year’s resolutions. But I still haven’t done it. My life was busy with a full-time job, 2 young kids, and various social commitments.

The timing wasn’t right, but someday, I would have the time.

Then Coronavirus happened.

This quarantine killed those dreams

Coronavirus hit and we were all suddenly quarantined. For some, it was the ideal situation for creativity – stay at home with tons of free time. But for many others, it was a big struggle.

I already worked from home. But I have kids that used to go to daycare, had a babysitter, and also had grandma to help watch them, so I could get some work done. Now they are home. All. The. Time. My workday starts at 9pm and goes as long as I can stay awake.
So I have less free time than I ever did. Many of you may resonate with this. You have families or work schedules that keep you busier than before due to the quarantine. You envy, and somewhat resent, those who are bored at home or picking up a dozen new hobbies.

Maybe that led to a stubborn hope for a return to normal. That’s what I did. I focused on doing what I needed to do to just get by, eagerly waiting for the quarantine to be over. When things get back to normal, I can resume putting off my creative projects on my own terms.

I could last a couple weeks.

But the quarantine just kept getting extended.

You realize reality has shifted

At first, the quarantine was only two weeks, then it got extended another two weeks. Then another. Predictions are that it may continue into summer, and ease on and off through the end of the year.

When the hope of returning to normal fades away, it can easily lead down multiple dark paths. Some people have heightened fear and anxiety about getting it. Some fall into deep depression. Some get caught up in reading articles of doomsday predictions. Some try to find meaning by looking for the conspiracy behind it all. Some deny what is happening by defying public safety rules. You may know a lot of these people, or (unadmittedly) be one yourself.

All this results in a similar outcome – wasted time, waster energy, and wasted potential. Though no one wants this reality, trying to make ignore it or deny it is not only counterproductive, it’s destructive to yourself and others.

However, accepting that this is the new reality for the foreseeable future and understanding those restrictions will actually enable you to live more freely.

The restrictions actually remove excuses

We often see restrictions, limits, and boundaries as a hindrance on freedom and creativity. We don’t like accepting what we cannot do.

But boundaries are what makes us creative. Art itself is created within boundaries. A painting sits on a canvas with edges. Music is limited to a certain set of notes. Writing has to follow spelling and grammar rules. An article by Fast Company explains how boundaries help eliminate wasted effort and maximize focus, allowing you to to expand your creativity on a certain project.

Within the boundaries of quarantine, the “possibilities” that were actually hindrances get stripped away. If you have less time now, focus on what you can actually accomplish within that limited time frame. If you have less resources now, see what you can do with only what you have. If you have less energy now, try to do what you’re able to do.

When it comes to vlogging, I used to have flexible hours of free time to do it during that day, but didn’t feel like it was enough to properly get set up. Now I only have 30 minutes to myself when both kids are asleep at the same time, so I have to record something in those 30 minutes. I used to have the entire house to myself, but couldn’t get the perfect background or lighting. Now the car is the only alone space I have, so that’s where I can record. I used to have more free hours to edit videos, but thought it took too long to get the perfect cuts, music, transitions, and graphics. Now I have just enough time to add some titles and upload as is.

So with all my excuses removed, I’ve finally started a vlog, and eventually, a podcast. All the energy and resources I used to have that went towards worrying about getting it perfect, are now hyper-focused on one thing – what will I talk about? All the other stuff is thrown out the window, and my creativity will expand on the actual content.

Creativity is action over perfection

We often misconstrue creativity with something that’s highly produced and finely edited. But something can’t be creative if it doesn’t actually happen. The first step to creativity is action.

So while this quarantine may seemingly limit what we’re able to do, it’s also removed the barriers (or excuses) to action. An article in WeForum explores how constraints and boredom among Gen Z have actually resulted in some of the most creative instances of problem solving we’ve seen. Those same principles apply to quarantine. Problems, challenges, struggles, and restrictions all provide the perfect breeding ground for creative solutions… if you let it.

You can wait for the perfect timing when things return back to normal. But in the place of waiting, a lot of weeds can grow – fear, anxiety, stress, frustration, bitterness, resentment, suspicion, envy, and anger.

Be creative, and create something good for the world.

If you’re struggling with seeing how creativity can occur in quarantine, The Atlantic has some tips on how to be creative during Coronavirus.

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