Staying indoors? Make creativity part of your daily routine…

It barely feels as though winter is over, and already we’re having to contemplate the idea that many of us will be spending Spring and early Summer indoors because of this virus. Argh! We don’t know how this is going to play out, but we do know it’s going to be a very strange few months ahead – at the very least, frustrating and inconvenient, and at worst a time of extreme stress and anxiety and loneliness for people. So all of us need to prepare ourselves.

Wellington H2A is all about bringing people together to enjoy creative experiences in the town – yet ‘together’ is not something we’re going to be in the foreseeable future. So how can we spend this time alone productively? Like caterpillars going into our chrysalises, what can we do to nurture ourselves and emerge with something new and colourful in our lives? There’s loads of advice out there about what we should be doing – mindfulness exercises, online yoga classes, phoning friends. But could this also be a chance to set ourselves some creative challenges that we wouldn’t usually make time for? It’s a bit easier if you already have a hobby – like knitting or painting – or you may be able to teach yourself one from scratch. But even if that feels a bit daunting, here are some ideas for things you can do without needing to acquire any particular skills…

  1. MAKE A ‘HIBERNATION MONTAGE’: The summer before I went to university, I started making a montage of photos – pictures of friends and family and people I knew from around the town. Some of these were my own photos and some were cut out from the local paper. It lived on my wall at college, and over the next three years I added to it, bit by bit, so that when I graduated it had over 150 faces on it. A ‘key’ on the back listed all the names. You could make one of like this, of people you know, or to save cutting up or copying your own photos, use pictures from the daily paper – politicians, celebrities etc. By the time your ‘hibernation’ ends, you’ll have a visual snapshot of this weird moment in time. All you need is a big sheet of paper or card, a glue stick and a pair of scissors.
  2. LEARN A POEM A WEEK: Most of us don’t spend much time reading poetry, but there’s something really satisfying about knowing a poem off by heart. It’ll surprise people too! Find one that you like – because of the way it sounds, the picture it paints, or the way it makes you feel. There are loads of places to find poems online, but if you’re stuck for inspiration and want to start local, you could try Housman’s A Shropshire Lad collection, or former Wellington librarian Philip Larkin. Start with a few lines or a stanza, and once you can say it without looking at the text, move onto the next stanza. Before you know it, you’ll have the whole thing.
  3. LEARN A BIT OF SHAKESPEARE: OK. So you’ve got a poem or two under your belt. But SHAKESPEARE? A lot of us wade through Shakespeare at school, reading it from a book and struggling to make proper sense of it. Seeing it and hearing it on the stage from a decent bunch of actors can really help – I’ve been to see plays a few times at The Globe and it was totally different to reading it. I was sitting on a long bus journey once and thought I’d try to learn one of the famous speeches. I found one from Henry V on my smartphone and read it over and over again, testing myself to remember it in chunks. A decade later, I can still remember the whole lot. It’s not something I say out loud very often, but it feels like an achievement just having it there inside my head.
  4. WRITE ABOUT A MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE: When my maternal Grandad retired in his mid-60s, one of the ways he filled his time was to sit down for a few hours a week and write recollections from his life. He did it freehand, and managed about 20 pages in total. It wasn’t hugely detailed, and if I could go back in time, I’d urge him to write a bit more about how he felt, instead of just what he actually did, but it’s still an amazing record in his own words of his early life. Now that he’s no longer with us, it’s particularly special. A generation later, and my dad has just retired and to mark 50 years behind his butcher’s counter, sat down and started doing the same. He ended up penning about 4000 words, which we trimmed down into four articles in The Wrekin News. He told me that he really enjoyed the process of writing, and I’ve met lots of people who enjoyed reading it just as much. He had no wartime exploits to write about like my Grandad did, but it was brilliant – and it’ll exist forever as a little window into a moment in time here in our town. EVERYONE has a story to tell – how ever ordinary you might think it is. Write it down! If you need a starting point, you could begin with a specific place – your first home, or street, or school – and describe it. Or choose some objects that reflect important people or moments in your life and write about why they’re important.
  5. KEEP A DIARY: Writing doesn’t have to be retrospective – we all have thoughts, feelings and ideas here and now, every day. So try turning them into words and writing them down. How are you feeling today? If you had a magic wand, where would you take yourself? If you have a garden, walk around and look at everything in as much detail as you can – what can you see? What can you hear? Don’t write self-consciously – no one else need ever read it – just do it for yourself and see what comes out.