I hadn’t written anything in weeks – no songs, no stories, no morning pages. I was struggling to get up to do yoga in the morning (so, I didn’t). I stopped playing music. But today I had a date with a friend – we were going to meet in a coffee shop and write. Both of us hadn’t been able to find the motivation to do anything creative for a while, so we both needed it. And once I sat down in the cafe (not without its struggles – I had forgotten my mask), I realised that writing felt good. I was enjoying it.
After an hour and a half of straight writing, we paid for our overpriced Boxhagener Platz coffees and went outside. “That felt good, didn’t it?” I exclaimed, somewhat surprised because I had expected I would just sit in front of the computer, dried up and empty, unable to get a word down. My friend nodded and said: “I finally feel like I’m shaking off the Covid winter depression. For months, I couldn’t get myself to do anything. All the things I’d once enjoyed doing just became the things I was forcing myself to do because I knew they were good for me. Now, I feel like I’m enjoying them again.”
When she said that, I stopped walking. That’s exactly what my life had been, too. Only, the last few months, I couldn’t even get myself to do the things that I knew were good for me. I’d just spent a month binge-watching ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and hating myself for it. It felt good to know that others were going through the same thing. And maybe it was unrealistic to expect that, once everything opened up, we’d be back to our old, sociable, productive selves right away. We did just spend over a year holed up at home, unable to share our music with anyone in real life.
For me, being able to go to smokey bars and gigs that stretched well into the night again was a blessing. But at the same time, I was struggling with keeping up the routine I had developed in lockdown. Seeing all my friends again and meeting new people felt great, but I felt overwhelmed and exhausted most of the time. After several weeks of gigs and open mics, I realised that maybe what I needed was not a night out, but a night in. But I also realised that it might take a while until I felt like the person I used to be before Covid hit.
In the last year and a half, a lot of my priorities have shifted. I’ve become less obsessed with money because I had nothing to spend it on during lockdown. I started appreciating my friends more and paying more attention to the close ties I’ve formed with people. I fell more in love with music because of what it did for me and not because of how it made people see me. In other words, I started paying attention to the right things, but it did hack away at my productivity. Now that we weren’t living in a vaccuum anymore, I needed to get back into the swing of things. Here are some of the things that helped me regain my rhythm:
1. I cleaned my space.
Maybe it’s my inner control freak talking, but when my surroundings are cluttered, I lack the motivation to do anything. When I clean and reorganise my flat, I always feel way more motivated to get stuff done in my life in general.
2. I agreed to a standing writing date.
Sometimes you just need an outside incentive. That writing date I had with my friend? We made it a weekly thing. So, now, I know that no matter what happens, I will sit down to write again next Monday. It won’t have to be good. But I’ll have to get it done because I’ll have my friend there who’ll be doing the same thing.
3. I started writing my morning pages again.
It’s amazing how much morning pages change my working habits. When I don’t do them, I always feel like the day is getting away from me. When I start my morning by writing 3 longhand pages in bed, I always manage to hype myself up enough to actually do all the things I claim I will in my diary. It’s pretty much my first step towards recovery in any difficult situation.
4. I made rules.
If something makes me feel bad but I can’t stop doing it, I make a rule. I can’t watch more than one episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ a day. I’m not allowed to anymore. I also can’t skip two days of yoga in a row. I have to go to bed before midnight if I’m not out at a concert. Sometimes, we need some self-discipline to get ourselves back in line. Having these rules in place forced me back into some form of normality, where I can find the time to make music because I’m not watching six episodes of a soap opera back-to-back.
5. I try to remember that every day matters.
Tomorrow will come when it does. But I want to make today count, too. And I want today to count every day, no matter how tired, shitty, or unmotivated I feel. When I don’t accomplish what I want and when I do, I try to remember to be appreciative of the time I have NOW because it’s the only time I have, right? I have a quote above my desk that’s a little cheesy but that I like anyway (I got it off some blog post somewhere, but for the love of God, I don’t remember which one):
Your mind has the ability to transform your day from a crappy, hide-under-the-covers day to a fabulous, dance-around-the-kitchen kind of day.
With that in mind, go forth and be creative.