How to Maintain Creativity During Isolation

Have you found it hard to maintain creativity during isolation? I have, but I’ve also found many ways to stay productive.

Isolation is in the nature of my beastly writing profession. Once I enter my cavelike focus, shoulders rounded, back hunched while typing away on my laptop, the plot unfolds and imaginary people slip into my dreamy setting like magical beings. Interrupted, they vanish along with anything they were about to say or do. I whip my head around, growl, and snap and claw. Okay, so not claw, but I’ve come close…

You get the picture.

Wild Thing for Halloween showing how I can be a beast in isolation.

My reaction to isolation surprised me. Instead of going through a creative surge, I became reflective. And this is why:

Writers and artists are sensitive and empathetic. We feel everything and most of the news has been tough. Interaction with others, no matter how isolated we become, is crucial to everyone’s mental health. After three months, I’m still not used to it. Not to mention, as an adventure and misadventure blogger, my world has become waaaaay too small. Boring. What happened today, probably happened yesterday and will happen again tomorrow. I just yawned in response. Life experiences are the catalyst for creativity. We need to loosen the detritus from the dark eddies in our imaginations. Creating something new has taken on a new meaning.

I broadened the meaning of the words, creative writer.

I started my self-isolation in lockdown and remembered my first Master Class instructor, Neil Gaiman. He taught me to think of my experiences and scribblings as part of a mulch pile. I’ve been tossing quite a bit of organic material into the compost. Thank you, Neil!

I started isolation by taking a few more Master Classes to add tools to my craft toolbox.

I’ve learned from Dan Brown and Margaret Atwood. Joyce Carol Oates is my current instructor. I take my place in the first row and furiously take notes. Writing input of any kind gives me a new perspective on current projects. Writing a novel is more than complex and it takes time and practice to fully understand each craft tool to implement it. Sometimes, learning through different presentations and methods makes the tool less cumbersome. Use it enough and it becomes second nature. It’s an amazing feeling to discover the shiny tool in my hand when I write something new. Master Class has been a great way to keep the dust from settling in my brain.

Revising Manuscripts.

It occurred to me that with all the rewrites of one of my manuscripts, the beginning has constantly changed. The opening chapters haven’t gotten the same spit and polish as the rest of the novel. I dove back in and added more description and deeper POV while cutting anything repetitive or obvious. Revisions can be tedious but necessary to crafting the best possible book. My goal is to waste as few readers time as I can.

Gardening.

This is the year when I get my hands dirty. When I come inside, hair fashioned into a massive rat’s nest, arms scratched, and ragged fingernails filled with soil, I always smile and reflect on the day. My dad grew up on a farm. It’s in my blood. I make sun tea, plant a few seeds, and wait for a late afternoon storm to roll in. Digging around in the dirt for voracious snails and tossing them in the recycle bin can be a highlight for me. I’m weird like that.

What does gardening have to do with writing?

The repetitious nature of yanking grass from my flower beds is a great tonic for allowing ideas to percolate. Similar to walking alone with my thoughts, they seem to pop into my mind from nowhere. Boredom is good for creative thinking.

Playing outdoors.

Walking, whether around my yard or in the neighborhood, seems to add up in thousands of steps. I had gotten out of the habit before Covid-19. Now, I take breaks throughout the day. No matter the weather, there’s a real benefit to fresh air. It gets my blood moving. So does biking. It’s really important for mental health. It’s easier to get something accomplished when I feel good about myself.

Reading.

Since the second week of March, I’ve read The Family Upstairs, Fates and Furies, The Dutch House, and the first book of The Expanse, Leviathan Wakes. It’s a pretty wide range of genres, from thriller to romance, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and a sci-fi space opera. My current read is a paranormal thriller called The Sun Down Motel. As a writer, I believe it’s important to read a ton to improve on craft. It’s amazing how it rubs off. I learn from every book I read whether it’s well-written, I love it, or not. I read chapters of non-fiction craft books too.

The distraction of wildlife.

Our wildcat population migrated to downtown Boulder, although I keep my Arlo cameras charged just in case. The squirrels, raccoons, and rabbits are plentiful this year and I’ve let my Bichon, Roxy, off-leash. I finally took it to the squirrel and raccoon population and suspended a bird feeder from a long string tied between two trees. It’s hilarious, watching the squirrels ponder the dangling food dispenser from the branches. They can’t navigate the string and it’s too far away to jump. The raccoons are too short. Ha!

I discovered male raccoons are very nasty. I caught one on video growling like a lion. It tore after a female who cried outside the shot. The Arlo camera showed her walking up the steps of our deck all tattered and torn. Damn. Nature can be violent.

While writing this, the string suspending my feeder broke. A happy squirrel clung to the feeder and chowed down. I MacGyvered it and the birds are going nuts. Take that squirrel!

Blogging.

Blogging has been tossed into the way back of my station wagon like a neglected pet. It whimpers for attention almost every day. Once in a while, I toss it a bone. Thing is, blogging is the only writing outlet that gives me instant gratification. I’ll get into the habit again. Soon.

 

Writing in a new genre for kicks and giggles.

I’m a thriller writer. While revising manuscripts and a screenplay, an idea tugged at my elbow. “Stop that!” I said several times, out loud. I finally gave in to its needling. After starting on this new project for grins, it occurred to me that my Word Of The Year is S T R E T C H . Writing futuristic suspense requires research and my protagonist is a dad. That is a stretch. I started with a woman’s point of view but switched sex since men are more out of their comfort zone when taking care of kids. Sorry guys, but I bet you have seen more dads than moms, who walk ahead of their kids while cars pull in and out of busy parking lots. Anyway, its always fun to be in a guy’s headspace. It’s so organized and linear, unlike mine. More for my mulch pile.

An illustration of my brain on inspiration.

What about social media?

With isolation continuing through the summer, social media is a great way to stay connected. I check Twitter for trending news a few times a day and have started to interact a lot more with Twitter friends. Facebook has always rubbed me the wrong way but I have reached out through PMs. I should post more frequently on Instagram. I check stories daily. Instagram is where positive people hangout. Yes!

For a while, I became obsessed with TikTok. Warning. You will need self-control or time will slip away. I always discover one short video that makes me laugh until tears run down my cheeks. Right now, that’s a very good thing! My wheels are turning with a few ideas, but haven’t recorded anything for my channel, yet… I’ll keep you posted.

Haircuts.

Roxy’s haircut was creative!

Every April Fools Day, I’ve considered cutting Roxy’s hair with a French twist. With Roxy’s fur reaching two and one-half inches, I decided to try my hand at grooming. Her haircut still cracks me up!

Baking.

I definitely tossed baking into my creative mulch pile. I’ve made two rhubarb, blueberry, and strawberry pies. I experimented with the amounts of each fruit. I better make a third one to make sure I get the proportions correct. It will end up in one of my books, I’m sure.

 

Onward, upward, and forward.

I have only driven in the car a couple of times other than retrieving my groceries at pickup. A peaceful protest in Boulder inspired me to write my last post. We’ve been up to the mountains once in the last three months, but it was just as beautiful as I remembered. Really. We drove to Denver and shopped at Overland Sheepskin while saying hello to my sister, Patty. Now that I’m feeling more confident about safely being out while wearing a mask, I see more adventures in my future.

So what have you been doing to stay creative? Are you writing or creating something for your mulch pile? Made any pies lately?

How to Maintain Creativity During Isolation Pinterest pin with dog on couch and blogger looking out window to backyard

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43 thoughts on “How to Maintain Creativity During Isolation

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  1. It’s good to keep busy. My goal is to find time to not be so busy. I’m afraid I have no sympathy for people who get bored. There is always something to do and it can be work or play. Lots to do if you think about it.

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    1. Motivation is key and it was tough for me in the beginning of lockdown. I thought it would be the perfect time for writing a new book but my thoughts were on our new surreal reality. That’s when I turned to MasterClass and removed self-imposed restrictions on what I should write. It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride for most people. Even if we are not writing, we can add to our compost heap. You never know what might grow!
      Thanks, Anneli!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you’re right about that state of mind – hard to concentrate on your storyline when you’re constantly thinking about the virus situation and the fallout from it. I like the image of something growing out of the compost heap. Could be a nice surprise.

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  2. Looks like you have been keeping busy, which is good. I’ve been hosting Zoom meetings with other writers, which I love. Also keeping in touch with family and friends via messenger, Skype etc. I picked up some editing jobs as well as edited my own book coming out in May of next year. And like you, I’ve been blogging and baking. I think writers actually have got this! I do miss going out with friends and travelling of course. But we are making the most of it all. Hang in there! xo

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    1. Thanks, Darlene!
      It sounds like you’ve been very productive!
      I have a critique group that meets on Zoom too. Congratulations on your new book! Any progress is progress and you never know where that pie will end up. I think I might add it to my WIP! 🥧
      I’m glad to hear you’re doing so well!

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  3. This was such a fun post…so many great ways to occupy yourself! You’re much more creative than I’ve been, you just might get me moving today!

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  4. This post kind of reminds me of the old joke about the man who, after some hand surgery asks the doctor “will I be able to play the piano after this?” The doctor says yes, of course. The man replies “wonderful, I never knew how before!”

    In order for me to be more creative during this lock-down time, it would have been good if I had been creative BEFORE the lock-down. Unfortunately, all the creativity in the family lies with my dear wife, Patty. In truth, I have been LESS productive during this time.

    The good news is, Patty and I have always enjoyed doing things together, much like you and Danny I suspect, so we have taken full advantage of our time together to enjoy walks, beach time, games, puzzles, reading and movie bingeing. Most amazing is that even after 53 years we’ve still learned new things about each other.

    Great post as usual.

    P.S. Maybe I would be more creative if I had the beautiful view from my computer that you do.

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    1. LOL! I’m glad you can relate. I wrote this a month ago when Covid was more dire in Colorado but didn’t finish the post until this morning. Case in point. LOL!

      Yes, Danny and I have been enjoying lots of weekend projects and kicking back to watch movies at night. I miss seeing my kids but we’ll see Courtney and her boyfriend this weekend. Yay!

      Thanks so much, Al!

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  5. I let the creative part do what it has always done. The isolation has hit others harder than me. I’ve been a pretty isolated person prior to Covid -19. I think 50 plus years of front and center has caused me to cherish my time alone. Glad you are doing well, Susie.

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    1. Thank you, John. I’m glad you are well too, I miss my family, eating out and traveling. I’ve been in the writing and revision trenches but I wrote this post a month ago. Took a while to motivate!

      Were you in sales?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Mulch pile! I love that ( I’ve always considered preliminary/ scribbling thoughts as priming the pump..flowing into the backwaters, wetlands, swamp ( who knows what lurks there!)
    Outdoors is ditto good – thoughts simmer then get ready to serve up.
    Blogging has been back burner other than checking in to check on people periodically. Any writing like any reading is productive, though
    Yea for creating squirrel challenges and bike riding

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    1. Hey Phil! I missed your comment, somehow. Sheesh!

      That squirrel is still getting the best of me and the worst. LOL! I thought I figured it out, but NOOOOO!

      I’m glad to hear you can relate. I’m trying to get one post out a week. More would be better and there would be a lot less pressure. All self-imposed, of course. 🙂 In the meantime, it’s always good to see you!

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  7. I just started following you. I enjoy your work. Very entertaining. Glad I took the time. I indulge in the analytical things. I need to relax more and read writings such as yours. NICE BREAK for my mind. I’m new to the blog world. Enjoying my stay here.

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      1. Thank you Susie. I will check out your link. Just writing for the fun of it. Retired. I write when I can’t sleep, or the house is quiet and I have something worth finding words to describe. It is fun when someone takes notice.

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  8. Even though both of us were pretty much shut down — no touring and no photo assignments — we stayed very busy. Nojo played 14 living room shows. I managed to find one assignment. I work ten days a month through the end of summer. It’s great work. We released her new work last Friday. Since I talk with artist managers, promoters and booking agents once a week on Zoom, I can say that music touring won’t restart until Oct 2021, which should tell you that CoVid19 isn’t going away any time soon. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

    We don’t really worry about creative spurts. They come when they come and usually from someplace else, not from us. We don’t try to force them.

    Of course, we do the usual things. We have a great veggie garden. Nojo is a great cook so she does that. The dogs need walking. The kids stay in the pool 6 hours a day…

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    1. Hey Ray!

      I love your attitude about creativity and your acceptance of its ebbs and flows. 14 shows! Wow. I’m glad to hear you’re staying creative too.

      I can’t wait until we can see the finish line ahead. Marathon is right. Here’s hoping!🤞

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      1. Thanks. For us, it’s the only way it can work. Bob Dylan says that he’s just a funnel. 14 shows us misleading. One a week, but the could be one song or 3 or 4. She’s was on GMA last week and played from our den. When I work on assignment I may not be that creative as opposed when I just make pictures for myself.

        If people don’t stop being silly and getting too close and wearing masks this thing is never gonna end. Our rate of infection is rising in Louisiana as it is in 22 other states.

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        1. I’m sorry I missed the GMA show! I agree about the funnel. That’s how I write books. I’ve tried to outline but my characters become anarchists. 😂

          We hiked in Breck last weekend and I couldn’t believe how many people walked super close to me while trying to converse with me, without a mask! Ugh. You would think that if someone is wearing a mask outdoors they’re being really cautious and should be respectful. I would have said something but I was holding my breath!

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  9. That pie looks gorgeous! I have rhubarb waiting in the fridge for me to do something with. Crunch, I think. I wonder what you thought of The Dutch House–I haven’t read it yet. Did it have enough plot to keep a thriller-writer entertained?

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      1. Right now, I’m reading Rust Belt-set THE DISTANCE FROM FOUR POINTS, and just finished SHINER, set in Appalachia. I’ll probably talk about both on the blog at some point. I just picked up curb-side holds from the library (yay!) and have GOLDEN STATE up next (need to get in some sunny Cali setting!) and I’m in a Catholic online book club for which we’re reading Alice McDermott’s THE NINTH HOUR this summer (well, I’m re-reading it; it was very good). Always plenty of reads in store. I did think THE DUTCH HOUSE seemed up my alley–so now I know I need to give it a go. Thank you for the recommendation!

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  10. Just following

    On Thu, 18 Jun 2020, 4:39 pm Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride, wrote:

    > susielindau posted: ” Have you found it hard to maintain your creativity > during isolation? I have but I’ve also found many ways to stay productive. > Isolation is in the nature of my beastly writing profession. Once I enter > my cavelike focus, shoulders rounded, back hunched” >

    Like

  11. Beautiful yard you have! I have been mostly working on house projects – which is a bit creative. Writing has definitely slowed. Those master classes sound very interesting. : )

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    1. Hey Jan! I missed your comment. Thanks!

      House projects sound like fun. Someone need to do a deep clean in ours. LOL! You would love Master Class. There are topics for everyone!

      Like

  12. Susie Lindau I relay enjoyed your blog. It was filled with a lot of catchy words. also nice to see how other people have started to cope and be more active with this whole social distancing. It can be especially hard when you have children. You just broadened my spectrum of ideas as in to what I can do from home with my child. 🙂

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        1. Right? It’s so weird when people do that on a trail. I’m being extra careful so why would they walk right up to me without a mask while talking, reeeeally loud??? LOL!

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