How did Frida do it? Making your Best Work in a Pandemic.


Like most creatives and people who ‘have their head in the clouds’, I am a life long sufferer from something I’m going to call ‘the split screen effect’. The first left pane is where everything is wonderful, and a french piano plays an upbeat tune as I perfectly paint all my ideas, sip perfect iced coffees and my concealer stays in place the whole day. The right pane is the reality, where I spill that same coffee down my trousers and the latest episode of the true crime podcast I’ve been binging has been delayed due to the pandemic. As we reach what is feeling like a midpoint in the battle against Covid, and week 19 since lockdown was announced, the chasm between the the left and right versions of lockdown have been weighing on my mind. Far from creating work effortlessly with the flick of a paintbrush, it’s felt like a lot of pressure. The rhetoric of ‘let’s use the free time we all have wisely’ bounces around in my head as I layout a fresh sheet of paper. So I wonder, if having time and few distractions aren’t the recipe for creating the best creative work, what is? How can I create my best illustrative dish du jour when the world is upside down?


Lots of great artists and creatives have made landmark work whilst in solitude. The wonderful Frida Kahalo was painting her gorgeous bright paintings whilst battling illness, and Tracey Emin locked herself naked in a room with paint and paper for three weeks to create her most iconic paintings. When having a google, she has recently been quoted as saying ‘she thrives in isolation’. I have to admit, that I definitely do not. I need people to feel sane. And I’m not ashamed to say that the hum of a local Pret a Manger and a chit chat with a good friend is what makes me thrive. Besides, I do have to question, how would Tracey have coped at week 19. It also seems necessary to mention that Taylor Swift has created a whole album with five star reviews in this pandemic. Which makes me feel like I’m vastly underachieving. But I think for my own peace of mind, it’s best for me to believe that certain personalities suit the current climate better than others. There’s many creatives who are just rolling forward at their usual (all be it still very impressive) pace; Lady Gaga, Zadie Smith, Oliver Jeffers, Zaha Hadid to name a few. So I count myself in good company with others who haven’t been given a turbo boost by their time in isolation. So given that I have accepted that, I am left with the cliche of ‘doing my best’.


To preface this next part, I am by no means I meditative guru and I don’t have huge amounts of self discipline when it comes to daily practices. However, meditation and quarantine are as good a pairing as strawberries and cream — so forgive me. Headspace’s creativity course is like a magic spell read to you in the soothing voice of Andy Puddicombe. Here the key principles of accepting the ideas you have, letting go of expectations and balancing a gentle control in order to explore your natural creativity. I honestly couldn’t recommend this more for anyone needing to create brain space. So dear fellow split screen sufferers the only prescription I can offer you is this; merge your two screens and find joy in muddling through the pandemic and treasure whatever it is you manage to create. Make space for mistakes, and next time you spill something down yourself call it a pollock and move on.

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