“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.” Kurt Vonnegut
These are strange times. Undeniably so. We’re all stuck at home and surrounded by panic-driven news. Unsure about what will happen, from one day to the next. It’s a challenging climate, the likes of which the human race hasn’t experienced in many years…
But it also provides a unique opportunity to be more creative.
We have so much more time on our hands, now. Time that could be wonderfully spent, in my opinion, exploring the whims and interests of your inner artist. According to Forbes, being creative boosts your happiness, strengthens your immune system, makes you smarter and more – qualities we all strive for. Beyond that, pursuing creative projects should help to keep you stimulated during self-isolation, and will stop each day from feeling too similar to the next. It’ll be a conduit for fun, even while you have to stay within the same four walls.
Being creative alone isn’t enough, though. You also need to make sure you’re taking care of your mental health, planning for the future and amending your daily schedule in a way that helps you thrive through this period. To that end, I’ve put together 50 suggestions of things you can do to tend to all these different areas – helping you to access the full powers of your right brain, and get crafty during quarantine…
1. Write a story
Humans have been storytellers for aeons – and there’s a reason why we continue to write, tell and read them. There’s nothing like weaving together your own worlds to lift your imagination to new heights, nor are there many other arty activities that are as immersive. Check out the National Centre for Writing if you need some tips to get started.
2. Pick up your pencils
Sharpen your brain with a sketchpad! According to a study by the National Center of Biotechnology Information, drawing helps you to open up your mind and think more creatively. Winning.
3. Chill with a colouring book
Colouring? It’s not just for kids. The practice actually increases your focus, elevates your inventive side and encourages you to express yourself. There are plenty of brilliant adult colouring books out there to suit every type of personality, too – whether you love Harry Potter, botany, mythical creatures, or have an inexplicable desire to colour in a cat’s butt. Yes, you read that right.
4. Belt your heart out
5. Get into gear with online gym classes
Exercise is proven to stimulate our minds as well as our bodies. Do some simple at-home movements (like push-ups, sit-ups and squats) or follow a class online to keep those muscles working and those beautiful brain juices flowing. MoveGB and GymCube are good places to begin.
6. Delve into a good book
There’s a reason why you can burn through so many books while on holiday, but struggle to read during your normal schedule – and that’s time. Now that we’re all a lot less busy, there’s a golden opportunity to tackle that TBR pile. Check out Goodreads if you want to connect with other book lovers or set yourself a reading goal as you go.
7. Bop along to chillhop
Rhythmic music is the perfect mind-fuel for when you want to tackle a creative project. Check out the official chillhop YouTube channel, pick a video, and let the zen beats carry you all the way to inspiration. (Side note: their mascot is a super-cute raccoon that almost rivals our adorable bear, Jammy… almost.)
8. Tune into podcasts
Treat your ears and stimulate your mind with a mix of podcasts that’ll expose you to more stories, philosophies, creative approaches and attitudes towards life. Here are some great places to dive in:
- For stories: Fictional and Myths and Legends by the wonderful Jason and Carissa Weiser
- For laughs: My Dad Wrote a Porno and Your Mom’s House
- For widened perspectives: The Unspoken Podcast
- For creative tips: The Lively Show and Creative Waffle
9. Try a YouTube tutorial
You can pretty much learn anything from YouTube these days. From perfecting your makeup to training your pets and even building a house, there’s a whole world of tutorials out there to help you brush up on any skill you fancy. And it works both ways – if you’ve got something to share, why not create some videos of your own?
10. Open the windows
Unsnare the artist within with fresh air. A healthy breeze increases your energy levels, and has a lot of other perks besides – making your mind more effective, lively and creative. Booyah.
11. Compose lists
There’s something weirdly satisfying about writing lists. It can help you to sort through your mental clutter, create actionable plans and encourage you to be productive in a healthy, gentle way. Maybe get into the practice of writing them each morning or evening, to get into the habit.
12. Cobble a vision board together
What do you see when you picture your future? Where do you want to travel? What do you dream for your brand? Now you’ve slowed down, you’ve got a great chance to think about all this – and embark on a cool little project, too. Pinterest is the perfect place to create a vision board if you’re low on collage materials.
13. Create total nonsense
Something that can hold you back from being your fullest, most creative self is the weight of other people’s expectations. When you’re creating something for a purpose – to publish online, to pitch to a publisher or send to a client, for instance – you can sometimes get too wrapped up in the details.
If you’re looking just to have fun with your art, this attitude can hold you back – which is why I’d recommend freewriting. The point of this is just to have a little fun – and it’s simple to do. Just start writing whatever pops into your head, and let the thoughts carry your pen. Like this:
The waffle iron was friendly on that sunny day, the trees were greener than emeralds and the sky burst with a sunbeam that promised clouds of butter and the springtime to be pure and crisp…
Suffice to say… whatever you write doesn’t have to make sense! It’s just about messing around with words and seeing what comes out. It might lead you to some good ideas, or it might just loosen up your creative side a little. It doesn’t matter, because there’s no pressure with this one. Nice, huh?
14. Try cross-stitch, embroidery or sewing
I’m not totally sure that idle hands are the devil’s playthings, but I do know that idle hands can lead to total boredom. Bleugh. Keep them busy and decorate your home at the same time with a creative sewing or fabric-based project – there are tons of wonderful kits on Etsy that will provide you with everything you need.
15. Study with the pros on MasterClass
Learn from the absolute best of the best by subscribing to MasterClass, where you can access tons of lectures from a range of amazing figures in pretty much every industry. Neil Gaiman even has one. *drool*
16. Cook up a storm
Are there any dishes you wish you knew how to cook, but haven’t so far had the patience to learn? Like the perfect beef wellington? Or perhaps a tray of sugar-coated cinnamon buns? Well, here’s your window. Grab that mixing bowl and shake, rattle and roll.
17. Learn a new language
If you put your mind to it, you can learn basic fluency in a language in just three weeks. Download an app like Duolingo, Memrise or Babbel and explore whichever lingo you love the sound of. Allons-y!
18. Create perfect playlists for every occasion
The right soundtrack sets the tone for a number of activities, whether that’s music to run to, songs that elevate your mood or chilled out tunes that help you concentrate. You’ll probably discover some new artists you love in the process, too.
19. Explore your inner journalling genius
Journalling can be an extremely restful and mindful way to connect with your inner visionary. You can use whichever creative practices you enjoy – from writing to drawing and scrapbooking to colouring – to shape a journal that truly reflects you. Here’s some great inspiration from Pinterest.
20. Schedule chats with friends
Even the most introverted of us need the company of others, sometimes. Make sure you’re communicating routinely with friendly folk via messenger, phone, email, in-game chat boxes or more – avoiding that “cabin fever” feeling and keeping your mind energised.
21. Get into gaming
The gaming industry is bigger and better than ever, and games themselves are delivering some of the most breathtaking stories out there today. That’s a bold statement, but you’ll feel the same once you’ve seen the world through Max’s eyes in Life Is Strange, or explored the otherworldly brilliance of Ori and the Blind Forest. Boot up your console and get inspired.
22. Join – or start – a virtual book club
Is reading alone not enough to quench your thirst for… well, reading? Get involved in a local online book club, or create your own, to get into the practice of picking up more books (including titles you might not normally go for). Fun fact: Reese Witherspoon has one.
23. Re-decorate your home
If your space isn’t stimulating you any more, mix things up! Invest in some plants, “feng shui” your rooms or maybe add a lick of colour to your walls. Changing your scenery will keep your thoughts and landscape fresh… paving the way for more inspired days ahead.
24. Make some time to meditate
I would be lying if I said that meditation is something I’ve personally gotten into (busy mind + an inability to sit still = lack of natural aptitude for the practice) – however, many people swear by its soothing effects and benefits. From my research, Calm or The Mindfulness App look like good places to get going.
25. Begin your very own blog
Are you particularly interested in a certain topic? Or do you just want to share your voice with the world? Put your fingers to your keyboard and start publishing your thoughts on a blog. This kind of project will help you to practice your writing (obviously), but could also be a great way to forge connections with others and widen your creative circle. A lot of people build their blogs for free via WordPress.
26. Tour exhibits – and the world – online
Nowadays, you don’t need to move an inch to see the world. From the streets of Tokyo to The British Museum and Machu Picchu, it’s now possible to tour a ton of fascinating places from the safety of home. So many options!
27. Embark on a virtual day out
In a similar vein to the point listed above – if you’re really clawing at the walls and desperate to go out, there are ways to do so digitally. Join in various experiences – from comedy nights to book clubs – and meet folk for dating or friendship via this innovative app. Who knew you could live so vicariously through your screen?
28. Practice a little poetry
If you’re sadly stuck at home,
Unable to leave, unable to roam,
A savvy way to pass the time,
Could be to sit and write a rhyme.
Hey, I never said I was the poet. But you get the picture, right?
29. Look for gaps in your brand’s content marketing strategy
Your company might not be trading as much right now… but you can still build on it. While business is taking a breather, identify areas of improvement in your content marketing strategy that you can work on – whether that’s expanding your blog, levelling up your social media game or more. A solid content marketing effort will help to keep you in the spotlight, through thick and thin.
30. Boss the art of origami
Learning a methodical craft like origami can be a great way to help you unwind while keeping your brain (and your hands) busy! As usual, somebody out there’s already built a wonderful website to help you through the basics. Don’t you just love the internet?
31. Reflect on times gone by
The past provides a wealth of inspiration for many of us. Harness the power of those memories by rooting through old photos, reminiscing with a loved one or doing some self-reflection to tap into new wisdom and insight. Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” journal is a superb tool to help you do this.
32. Write letters – both to yourself and others
Obviously, there are lots of direct ways that you can talk to people these days… but there’s just something so nice about receiving a letter, isn’t there? Give this lost art some limelight by writing to your loved ones – or even to yourself, using a tool like FutureMe.
33. Leap into projects on HITRECORD
Teamwork can be a beautiful thing, and it’s the heart and soul of HITRECORD. Join thousands of other artists across different disciplines and get involved in group projects like filmmaking, music producing and more. You should also follow its CEO, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, on Twitter. During the quarantine, he’s invited all of his followers to join him in doing something creative every day. A guy after our own hearts.
34. Entertain your inner child
There’s a reason why kids are so creative. They just follow their artistic whims and enjoy themselves – and I’d wager we’d all benefit from doing the same, now and then. Watch cartoons. Doodle, dress up. Build something. Infuse your day with the spirit of play, and see where it takes you.
35. Make your mental health a priority
It’s much, much harder to be creative when you’re bogged down by anxiety. Keep away from stressful news and fear-focused clickbait to keep your mind at ease, and only learn what you need to from verifiable sources. That way, you can put that lovely big mind to other uses!
36. Unplug from social media
At a time where we desperately need to connect with others, it might seem like bizarre advice to uninstall your social media accounts. But doing so will not only help you to escape the noise surrounding the pandemic, you’ll likely find you have a lot more free time on your hands… freeing up your schedule for fun projects, instead.
37. Become friendly with freelancers
While your business is slowing down, you might want to amp up your networking game. Get to know some freelancers and like-minded people in your area to establish connections and share new ideas. It’s always good to grow your circle, and you might make some valuable contacts that’ll help your brand bounce back once this period is over. HMU.
38. Subscribe to some newsletters
Your morning coffee always tastes better when paired with inspirational reading. Fact. Sign up to newsletters that’ll fill your head with brilliant stories and ideas from the likes of Mashable, Mental Floss and Botnik.
39. Brush up on digital artistry
Graphic art is a mind-bogglingly cool skill, in my book – and with the right programmes, there’s nothing stopping you from becoming a digital da Vinci yourself. Check out this list of tutorials to learn how to wield that pixellated paintbrush.
40. Preen and perfect your PC
From your graphics card to your monitor, there are no parts of your PC that you can’t upgrade or give a magical makeover. There are plenty of helpful guides online that’ll lead you through the process too, so don’t feel intimidated by this tech-focused task. Are you ready to RAMble? (… I’ll show myself out.)
41. Boost your brain activity with puzzles
Keep your brain’s cogs whirring with teasers such as crossword puzzles, riddles and sudoku. I do The Independent’s Daily Crossword pretty regularly. It’s surprisingly addictive.
42. Let your inner night owl (or morning bird) rule
You’re either relaxing or remote working from home – regardless, your normal routine has been thrown into disarray. Take advantage of this by playing around with your schedule, and hone in on the hours of the day when you’re feeling most energised to do your creative projects.
43. Become a board game brainiac
Scrabble, Boggle, Cluedo, Monopoly, Cards Against Humanity… there’s a long, long list of great board games out there. Use Board Game Geek to read up on the ones that tickle your fancy and start building up your library.
44. Dip your toe into foreign cinema
Hollywood? It’s so last year. Watching foreign films will help you to brush up on your growing language skills, open your mind to different types of cinema and improve your ability to focus and fully immerse in the stories they’re telling. Some of my favourites include Amelie (French), Oldboy (Korean) and pretty much anything from Studio Ghibli (Japanese).
45. Piece a puzzle together
Nick Offerman (AKA, Ron Swanson) and his wife Megan Mullally are both big puzzle advocates. If that’s not enough of an advert by itself, puzzling actually helps you to be more mindful and improve your short-term memory. Cool, right?
46. Savour the silence
It can be scary to just “be”. However, getting comfortable with silence is a big step towards thinking more creatively – removing the chatter from your brain so that it can slowly be filled from the well of your imagination. Hone in on this quiet time when you’re taking a bath, dropping off to sleep or waking up in the morning.
47. Get crafty with your camera
Chronicle your experiences of self-isolation through a camera. You might surprise yourself with what you come up with when you’re forced to think outside the box!
48. Become a code wizard
Ah, coding. It’s one of those things that I really wish I knew how to do, but have never been able to find the time. I guess I’ve run out of excuses… as have you, if you’re of similar mind! Start learning the alchemical language of code for free with Codeacademy.
49. “Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow…”
As strange as these next few weeks might be, don’t fall into the trap of thinking they’ll last forever… they won’t. Make plans for the fun things you can do once this chapter has closed, and try to alleviate that “cabin fever feeling” – giving your mind more room for play.
50. Do as the astronauts do
Astronauts are experts in self-isolation, and many of them advise that you create an active timetable that checks all the boxes. Create daily goals and put a lot of downtime into your schedule to help you balance out the hours with an even mix of work, art and play.