Checking In from Quarantine

By the time this post hits the web, I will have been in a forced work-from-home situation for 10 weeks. Furthermore, my home state, North Carolina, will have been under quarantine orders from the Governor for six weeks. It seems like a good time to check in and see how this quarantine has been affecting my creative life.

Work/life balance

The biggest fear I had when this whole pandemic lockdown thing started was how it would affect my work/life balance. If you are not familiar with the term, work/life balance refers to our ability to leave office issues at the office and not bring them into your personal time. When I went to an office every day it was easier to leave the work worries behind when I left, ya know, work.

Working from home doesn’t provide that luxury. The problem, from a creative perspective, is spending my valuable creative energy off-hours thinking about work things. That is very undesirable.

Fortunately that hasn’t really been a problem. I have been able to successfully keep my mental spaces separate, and leave office things in the office where they belong—even though my office space is literally 12 inches from where I am writing this post in my studio.

I am careful to only work on office things when I am sitting my designated work station desk. I have a desk lamp that I turn on when I “go to work,” and turn it off when I clock out. That signal helps keep everything separate.

There are some other things keeping my creative juices from flowing freely, but work/life balance doesn’t appear to be one of them.

General quarantine anxiety

I have noticed a general feeling of anxiety that wafts over me several times a day. Normally I don’t stress out over things that I can’t control, so when I do get anxious about something, it is generally very specific and obvious.

Clearly, this general anxiety I am experiencing is related to the quarantine. I have been lucky in this pandemic that I am doing pretty well. I live in a small town that has not had a lot of COVID-19 cases, the stores are stocked, most restaurants are open for takeout, and I am still bringing in the same amount of money from my job for the same amount of work. Really, aside from not being able to see movies in a theatre, and not having to put pants on to go to the office, my life hasn’t really changed that much.

I really have nothing to worry about, but I still have worries. That’s the problem with something serious and global like the pandemic. It gives all of us reasons to worry, even though our day-to-day lives are basically decent. According to psychologists, this causes our brains to work overtime, even if we’re not actually doing anything. This leads to mental fatigue, and a desire to rest, instead of be active.

In short, just knowing a pandemic is going on outside my doors uses up energy. Energy I could put into creating new toy images. Fiddlesticks!

I have noticed my desire to create has ebbed a lot. I still keep active, but I need to force myself to get into the zone, and I can’t seem to stay in that zone as long as I used to. But I know it’s not my normal life—it’s not a creative block, it is not my depression. It is mental load from a global crisis.

So I give myself permission to be less creative, and to get the rest I need. When I am rested I can create, but some days it’s not going to happen. I have decided to be comfortable with that.

I mean, if you think about it, if I can get through a once-in-a-generation global health crisis with nothing more than not having created as many toy photos as I could have, I am still doing great. Taking care of self is job one. So if that means spending a Saturday afternoon lying on the couch watching Deadpool movies instead of in my studio playing with Deadpool action figures, then job done.

Getting out

So I stay home most days. In fact, most of these weeks, aside from a semi-daily bike ride, I haven’t left my property.

This does mean I have more time to look at my toys, and recently I was looking at the Bob Ross action figure recently released by NECA, and I thought of a cool shot to take. The issue was that the shot required me to be up in the mountains, and not at home.

However I figured there would not be a lot of folks up there, so I went for a drive. It took three hours to get there, but when I pulled into the empty parking lot at my destination, Mabry Mill off the Blue Ridge Parkway, I knew I’d made the right decision.

I spent a few glorious hours enjoying the cool clean mountain air, and taking some photos:

Bob Ross painting in front of Mabry Mill, taking the worries of quarantine away.

Honestly, that time spent at Mabry Mill, physically away from everyone, and mentally distanced from the pandemic, was one of the best things I could have done for my mental health.

How are you guys doing with this pandemic? Let me know in the comments below.

[dave]

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3 Comments

  1. Tomasz Lasek

    I hear You Dave.
    I also feel this anxiety, even though the pandemic issues didn’t hit me much [yet].
    But still I feel this strange grey cloud over my head. And sometimes I feel bad that I don’t want to shoot anything, even though I have time and ideas. But later I I come to the conclusion that I have to let go sometimes and do literally nothing in the evening, just taking a rest.

    Stay safe and take care Dave!

  2. Mary Wardell

    Thanks for your article, Dave. I have a hard time putting my anxieties into words but they are very much a part of daily life. My creativity comes and goes depending on which emotions are in control that day.

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