Let me describe to you what my day to day life looks like in self-isolation: I wake up far too late, hastily finish overdue online assignments, and lay in bed doing nothing. Then I stare at my phone for some time, in bed, doing nothing. I re-watch an episode of The Office. Then I get bored and re-watch an episode of Parks and Recreation. You should probably get up and do something, my brain tells me. “Nope,” I reply. Before I know it, it’s 2 a.m. and I feel like crap. I stare at the ceiling, berating myself for being unproductive.
For not studying that book even though I’ve had the time. For not finishing that internship application. For not working and studying and producing something of value. The constant self-chastising fades into white noise and I drift away to sleep, well into the a.m., only to wake up and start the routine again.
Look, it’s normal to feel unproductive during this time. We’re going through an unprecedented and traumatic historical event. But the inactivity left me feeling less rested and more frustrated. I wasn’t applying or expressing myself, leaving me trapped in a wormhole of my creation. So, I set about to find projects that would get me to do both. Here’s what I found:
If you’re the least bit active in writing circles, you’ve probably heard about Nanowrimo, or national novel writing month. If you haven’t, here’s the rundown. Novelists sign up before November 1 each year and set a goal to write a novel of over 50,000 words in 30 days. The point isn’t to write a masterpiece but to just write. Camp Nanowrimo is a similar idea, with a little less pressure. It’s for people who find the idea of writing 50,000 words in 30 days too overwhelming, or are too busy in November, or are just bored in April or July. You sign up, fill out a short description of your current work in progress, and you set your personal goal. It can be 25,000 words, 75,000 words, or 500 words (write this in ascending order). Its purpose is to motivate you to just write. It’s a great project for people who have been eyeing their WIP ideas folder nervously for the past year, scared to begin their stories.
It started as an idea from YouTube’s favorite poet and author of Graffiti and The Truth About Keeping Secrets, Savannah Brown, in 2019. Now, thousands of people worldwide set some time aside to make a small piece of art every day in April, following the same prompt.
The Instagram post above shows this year’s prompts, which writers and artists can interpret freely and incorporate into their creative works. It can be the title of the poem, the subject of your painting, or your work can have a very tenuous connection with the prompt itself. There are no hard and fast rules!
Most people write short poems, but some sing, some draw, some journal, some collage, all offering their interpretation of the prompt. The daily nature serves to open the creative tap and let all the gunk flow out—expression without hindrance, publication without scrutiny.
Learning a new artform
Have you ever stared at a painting, or listened to a song, or read a short story, and thought, “God, I wish I could do that”? Guess what? You can! Take twenty minutes to research the very basics of that one art form you’ve been hungering to learn, and just start. You’re going to be bad, but let yourself be bad! You can’t get to the good without letting yourself be bad. Experience the pure joy of failing without expectation, which inevitably comes with learning something new.
Here are some resources to get you started:
Even in the darkest of times, humanity has a place for art. These projects are great motivators to get you out of your bed and use your brain to make something. Anything. Let go of any pressure you’re putting on yourself to be “good” and just enjoy the process of immersing yourself in art! You’ll step away with a sense of clarity and catharsis.
cover photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash