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Staying Creative Through Lockdown

Sydney’s latest lockdown has just been extended, and we’re back to what’s now an old routine: Zoom drinks, WFH and half-hearted living room yoga.

This time, it’s less of a sudden, violent upheaval, and more like the drop you see from the top of a rollercoaster. This time, I’m very fortunate to have retrained and successfully started a new job in tech that I can comfortably work from home.

But this stay-at-home thing is still draining. For me, creativity is tied to physical, social and emotional influences. And everything at the moment is stagnant. So I’ve tried to switch it up while staying home.

First, I needed to do some research into building your own house for a redraft of an old play. So I called my mum, a DIY renovations expert, for advice. In Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (published before the internet was everywhere) she recommends calling an expert on the phone as a great way to gather information for your writing. In lockdown, this doubles as an opportunity to connect socially and talk about anything other than bloody case numbers.

But what if you still need someone to bounce ideas off? But you’re not ready to share your creative ideas with an actual person? In software development there’s a well-known technique called rubber ducking. When your code doesn’t work, you can try explaining it out loud to anyone or anything (like a rubber duck), and in the process of explaining it, it hits — “Ohh, so that’s what I need to do!” I’m now taking this approach for all sorts of problems — story structure, character development — and all sorts of rubber ducks: my fern, Bobbie, my cat, Margarita, and an actual rubber duck.

And for days when inspiration really drags its feet, I learned a cool trick: do everything with your opposite hand. Even brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand can wake up the non-dominant side of your brain and upset that old, practised routine. Anything to stay mentally active and present over the coming weeks.