Our next (and last) weekly check-in will be on April 28th at 5.30pm — 7pm. If you’d like to join and are a member already, make sure you’re signed up to our mailing list. If you’re not a member, register for a free account and I’ll send you a link prior to the check-in.
Since the pandemic lockdown, in place of our usual monthly peer groups, we’ve been having weekly check-ins for artists and cultural producers via Zoom (yep, I said that word). At a time when it seems that an infinite amount of resources, ideas, residencies and creative activities have popped up, we’ve used the unstructured time to connect and support one another through simple conversation for an hour.
Our usual in-person sessions are highly structured, providing 2 artists in each session the time to share active ideas and projects with feedback from peers. What a number of us in the network have found is that we haven’t quite got the energy to be creating let alone critiquing; that we’re worried about where our work is coming from or how we’re going to survive. We’re becoming fatigued by the number of video calls (which for some felt exciting at the start) and are now struggling with this feeling of ‘unproductivity’. We’ve been asked to work in new ways that are challenging, sometimes without additional support and compensation. It is a messy, confusing and worrying time, blended with moments of innovation, connection and community building. Many of us have become accustomed to producing work that contributes towards a larger body of work that then becomes marketable or packaged up as a product (an exhibition, workshops etc), and the current events have stalled our usual ways of working or projecting into the future.
A common thread we’ve found is that day-to-day is a rollercoaster, from feeling on top of things and productive to a feeling of malaise. Some of us have found small ways of engaging creatively, whilst others have a total creative block. Is it surprising? Our whole way of life has shifted in the last few weeks, both personally and professionally. Many of us rely on multiple income streams meaning working on numerous projects in various venues in just a single week. Now, the majority of us are confined to the home. On top of the practical changes to our working lives there is the immense psychological shift to an overwhelming amount of anxious data being pumped into our psyche, bombarded with death statistics and social media posts. A reminder from group members to others seems simple, but requires constant repeating: practice self-compassion, you’re doing your best in trying times.
I tend to keep thinking of this time as a time to percolate and process — it is not the time to be expecting to produce your best work or groundbreaking ideas. It makes me think back to the many comments I’ve received on my work created in relation to my mental health crises. Well intentioned comments suggesting that the work was great because it was made whilst in the crisis, which honestly and simply isn’t true. The work I made whilst being very unwell was minimal at best, sometimes just terrible. Yet with time to process, reflect and think creatively and clearly comes the ability to form new ways of thinking and making.
I am admittedly not the best at investing in self-care. Yet in the last few weeks I have tried to see that watching those films that have been on my list for years or those trashy TV shows that provide mindless respite are crucial. Reading those novels or simply catching up on sleep are the foundations for the second phase that holds true potential, this research and restful phase is the one that has the potential to inform the creation of something new and valuable.