Quarantine! Your contact with the world has shrunk. You’re home and maybe you’re just passing the time hoping you will be safe and waiting impatiently for it to be over. The pandemic has forced on most everyone a kind of isolation that can lead to all kinds of negative emotional and physical consequences: depression, weight gain, addiction, anxiety, and just plain irritation at the few people closest to you who are sharing your space at home.
But you know, there is another kind of person who craves this isolation from other people and the demands of the world. No, I’m not talking about hermits. (Okay, so hermits also fit.) I’m talking about creative people. Artists, writers, makers, inventors, entrepreneurs. These people know that they have to pull back from interaction because they need a big blank area in their heads where they can spread out the creative jigsaw puzzle and work on it without distraction. Part of the reason artists withdraw is that they know that first efforts are easily criticized and creative enthusiasm is killed. They live out the story of the Ugly Duckling, hiding themselves away and working on their vision apart from the other ducks. Because they love their inner swan.
How about you? Have you ever dreamed of doing something but put it off with “when I retire…“ or “if I only had the time…” Well folks, we’re all going to have the time and we’re going to go stir crazy being home alone all day unless we learn from folks who’ve been doing it for years: writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and inventors. If you’re in self-quarantine at home, instead of binge-watching or binge-reading how about binge-creating? Time to unpack a dream. Time to see if your cockamamie contraption can work. Time to accept that maybe you can’t draw or can’t write because you haven’t put in the time.
I bet you have a book in you. Or, if you’d rather eat cardboard than write, maybe you’re an artist. How about something you’ve always wanted to learn? Music. Astrophysics. Or something to make? Clothes. Bookshelves. A family history album. Or that time you said, “I wish someone would figure out a doohickey to do X.” Wish yourself right into the role of inventor.
The internet has tools for all of the above. And the library has free ebooks you can download with an app. Not knowing how to start is no excuse. There are beginner books to get you started. Advanced books to tackle a challenge.
YOU THE WRITER
Start each day with words on the page or screen. If you write longhand, then try 3 pages. If you write on a computer, aim for at least 500 words but quit for the day after 1000 no matter what. If you push too hard one day, you’ll be unable to type a single word the next. You don’t have to be good on a first draft. You can, in fact, be terrible, and still end up with a book. A book that you can edit and make great. Every writer rewrites. The trick is finishing the first draft. Watch videos on how to write your novel or memoir instead of re-watching movies. Borrow writing ebooks &audiobooks with a library app. Get your 1st draft done.
YOU THE PAINTER
There are some really great art videos online for all levels. I’ll suggest just one guy who does really basic stuff so that even if you are sure you can’t paint, this Bob Burridge video on painting the human figure will give you the inspiration to try. There are plenty of others if his goofhall humor doesn’t inspire you. There’s no better way than art to get lost all day and come out enthusiastic about the next. Binge-watching or -playing will depress you. Get supplies delivered. Watch instructional videos. Go.
YOU THE MAKER
Crafting is big on YouTube. You can see instructional videos all sorts of stuff from the wacky to the useful. Take up knitting, soldering, sewing, robotics. Get a vision of what you want to make. Give yourself a real challenge and then figure out the steps. Chat online with other makers, getting advice and sharing experiences. Find a new community even while you’re practicing social distancing.
YOU THE EXPERT
Studying something you’re really interested in or motivated to learn takes up your whole brain. You need something to occupy your mind while stuck at home. Don’t disappear into the screen. Maybe you’ll never be a rocket scientist, but you can learn the physics and engineering behind it. f you think you lack the knowledge or skills to follow your dreams, this is the perfect time to take a free class online or library audiobook course.
This is especially good advice if you need a skill or credits to get a better job. Take your time off to enroll online somewhere and improve your life outlook once this scary time is behind us. A few weeks or a month won’t be enough to get a degree, but it will be enough for you to know if the new line of work is good for you. And successfully finishing a course will give you the confidence boost to pursue it after hours once you do go back to your old job.
All this is not to say you can’t watch movies or play games. Just don’t let the screen swamp your days and swallow your nights. Make this break a time to break out of your rut and see what you can achieve.
Susan diRende us a writer and artist who travels the world full time looking for and finding inspiration in the novel, the unexpected, and the everyday. She has a regular column, Going Solo, about the how and why of solo travel in addition to the reviews she writes for Splash Magazines Worldwide. You can learn more about her at susandirende.com.
All images by Susan diRende.