Self-care and creative expression during Covid-19

This is possibly the worse time and the best time to be a creative, whether you are an author, illustrator, or both. The worse time as we are living through a global pandemic, one that has taken just over 40,000 lives in the UK at the time of writing this blog post.

Joy FrancisJoy Francis

One that has exposed and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and one that has put our creative livelihoods and legacies at stake, as highlighted by Jacaranda Books and Knights Of, who have jointly set up a crowdfunding page to raise £100,000. The funds will ensure they can continue to serve avid readers with culturally relevant books and provide authors and illustrators with a platform to showcase their talents.

Despite this emotionally-fraught and unsettling reality, it may be hard to imagine how, by any stretch of the imagination, it can also ‘possibly’ be the best time to be a creative, when you are financially impacted.

It is possible as the crisis has provided a vacuum where you can stretch and mine your imaginations during a globally shared experience, though not necessarily a shared and equitable outcome.

There is a shared need for connection. A shared need for creative stimulation. And a shared need for inspiration to enable us to thrive, not just survive, and to imagine a new reality beyond Covid-19.

There is an opportunity, while we are shielding, self- isolating or quarantining, to reflect on our goals and push against our comfort zones, share our ideas - and even collaborate virtually.

This is ‘possible’ because of a generosity of spirit flowing from thousands of people who read, watch, listen to and value artistic expression, especially at this time. Behind this outpouring of support is an acceptance that an artistic life is essential to society. 

During Covid-19 you can reach out to a potential mentor, listen to a podcast by someone you artistically admire or attend a free workshop on a topic you have been avoiding for years. Well-known artists and writers who, pre-lockdown, were difficult to access online, or in real life, are now more reachable (and responsive) as more people reach outward to connect internally.

Teachers are searching for new books to inspire their students. Student and jobbing actors are happy to virtually read and perform new work for a budding podcast or audio project. Bloggers and social media influencers want something to shout about in their posts.

But before you reach out and explore any of the above options, it is beneficial to have a self-care plan in place to ensure you are looking after yourself holistically as you and your creativity are both precious. Even if you do not have one, it is important for you to know that that is okay too. When you are ready, there are options.

It is a good time to look at your creative process. Are you creating because you feel you ‘should’ to avoid feeling like a failure? Are you worried that you may be left behind or that your work may become irrelevant? Do you feel compelled to fill up the space by writing or drawing every day out of pleasure and passion or pain and fear? These are all understandable motivations, especially when arts funding and commissions, in the main, are on hold.

The self-check through self-care will help keep your dreams and aspirations alive, or help you see if they are the same dreams and aspirations you held back in March 2020. In the interim, what makes you happy and motivated are worth pursuing. This isn’t you avoiding your creativity but is a rediscovery of who you are. Self-care isn’t a distraction, but allows you to create your own space for the expansion of your self-confidence, in your craft - and yourself.

Everyone is different. What you choose as a self-care ritual will depend on your mood, your values, your taste and your level of enthusiasm, and willingness to try something new.

Breath work and meditation are incredibly beneficial activities to engage in at a time of high stress, fear and worry. They are also invaluable for bolstering your respiratory system. A fantastic, and free, resource is the Insight Timer app, the world’s largest free library of guided meditations.

Keeping fit, whatever your level, may seem like a stretch when you are restricted to a room or shared home. Walking is a widely acknowledged mood enhancer and an accessible way to keep fit. But if you are someone who craves something more vigorous, then POPSUGAR Fitness on YouTube could work for you.

Or if you want a short burst of activity between childcare, deadlines and/or other commitments, then HIIT specialist Chloe Ting is worth checking out with her two week, 25 and 35 day daily challenges of 10 minutes duration. Or if, like me, you miss dancing, then a low impact positivity-focused Hip Hop fitness class with Mike Peele is an enjoyable experience, either solo or shared.

If you are facing a block, of any kind, Morning Pages may help. A centrepiece of The Artist’s Way, the iconic book by Julia Cameron, now in its 27th year, this practice is based on producing three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, first thing in the morning, every day, for at least three months.

Affirmations are also good for focus, confidence building and grounding. Life coach Iyanla Vanzant has produced many books on the topic, but you can also come up with your own to repeat to yourself daily. They are incredibly powerful in countering negative self-talk, procrastination and self-sabotage, and quietening your inner critic, which may have surfaced with force at this time.

What we do know is that stress is held in the body. Whether you are into spirituality or not, you could read up on the chakras, the seven main energy points in your body.  A great resource is Caroline Shola Arewa Opening to Spirit, which was reprinted for its 20th anniversary two years ago. Arewa also has an eNewsletter and is running free sessions during the pandemic.

If you want to know how other artists in different parts of the world are coping, Building the Anti-Racist Classroom has pulled together a wealth of resources for academics and artists of colour, including a strand on caring practices from across the globe.

Also, there are some great creatives and personal development consultants worth following on social media as they share their own self-care routines and offer useful tips and resources, such as Gaylene Gould, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Natalie Lue, Kenny Mammarella-D’Cruz, Jackee Holder and LionHeart.

Finally, Words of Colour Productions is running a range of free virtual creative wellbeing and professional development sessions for writers and creatives of colour until August 2020.

Whatever path you choose, remember you are not alone, that you are of value and that the world will be ready and waiting for your creations when they land.

Joy Francis is the executive director of Words of Colour Productions.

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