Our world has been turned upside down. It may be broken forever, given that we may never get back to the life we had before.
And right now, the entire world is dependent on creativity.
Across the globe, scientists are racing to create new tests, treatments and vaccines to detect, cure and prevent the virus.
It’s a matter of life and death for millions of people.
It’s also a matter of life and death for our society – if we want to return and rebuild, we need our researchers to succeed in their creative endeavours.
Meanwhile, medical staff are having to be creative as well as courageous, finding ways to deliver treatment at scale in challenging conditions, often without the essential equipment they need to protect themselves and their patients.
Our leaders are trying to make sense of it all, devising strategies, and organising the medical and scientific response. They are also having to create new ways to reconfigure society and bolster the economy to cope with the pandemic.
And even if we aren’t in the lab or the hospital or directing operations, we are all having to dig deep and use our creativity to get us through.
We’re having to find new ways to organise our work and family life, juggling the demands of working from home, taking care of our families – and in many cases home schooling children and/or coping with a sudden loss of income.
On a lighter note, we’ve seen a welcome an explosion of creativity as a way to let off steam, from singing on balconies during lockdown to a stream of videos, songs, poems, jokes and other media designed to lift our spirits, give us a laugh and a bit of respite, and help each other keep going.
And in your own creative career or business, this is likely to be a pivotal time. Depending on your creative field, you may be lucky enough to be able to keep working, or have suddenly seen your work dry up.
In response to all this, you are facing a crucial question: should you hold steady on your current course, or reinvent yourself by doing something new?
I’ve seen this in my coaching practice over the past few weeks – some clients have been massively disrupted and have to reinvent themselves fast. So I’ve spent time helping them stay calm, brainstorming new approaches and putting them into practice.
Others are able to carry on – their challenge is to stay focused on their most important work, in spite of everything that threatens to knock them off their course.
And quite a few of them are using opportunity to push ahead on self-started creative projects – screenplays, art projects, videos, music, books and courses.
The kind of project that could be a game changer for their career, but which is usually hard to prioritise against other demands.
So if you’re feeling unsure about how you should respond to the situation, ask yourself:
Where will your creativity make the most different right now – by doubling down on the work you were already doing, or by reinventing yourself and trying something new?
Both require courage, but seeing the difference requires clarity. So take time to get clear about this.
Start by doing whatever helps you stay calm and find clarity: writing, journaling, meditating, going for a walk, talking it through with a friend.
Then look around at your peers – not the ones who are consumed with anxiety and rushing to blame others for the emerging problems. But the ones who are being creative and resourceful in the face of chaos, and stepping up as leaders to help others.
What are they doing? What are they saying? What can you learn from their example?
And if you have a creative practice and you’re struggling to keep it up in the face of all this, then remember – your creativity has never been so crucial.
Don’t listen to the voice that tells you that writing or making music or art is fiddling while Rome burns.
Because not only will doing your creative work make you feel better in the moment, it will also help you to respond in a more creative and resourceful way to al the other challenges you are facing right now.
You can hear an audio version of the article in this episode of The 21st Century Creative podcast, starting at 10’55”.