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.
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.
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:
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.