Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Mixed feelings as COVID clip snowbirds wings
Daily fall forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
SaltWire Selects: Stories worth sharing today
What you need to know about COVID-19: September 30, 2020
For artists, the Covid-19 shutdown has presented a unique challenge – the loss of creative outlets. Social media still allows performing artists to connect with audiences, which is convenient for audiences, but what about the artists?
Some musicians have been live-streaming with a “virtual tip jar” where patrons can donate directly to the artist, but how does that compare to playing in a packed bar with a full band?
Sure, actors can read a Shakespeare scene on Facebook Live, but how can that compare to being on the stage, dressed in a costume, surrounded by props and interacting with fellow thespians?
While some artists take this challenge head-on, others may feel defeated by it. We’re all going through the strangest times of our lives and there’s no “wrong way” for artists to make it through a pandemic.
I’m one of those creatives who has lost all inspiration, motivation and stimulation, but in chatting with other artists and creatives throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, I was comforted in knowing that I was not alone.
“When the pandemic began, I naïvely thought it would have a very limited effect on my writing practice,” one local writer shared. At first, she worked overtime, using COVID-19 as an opportunity for more freelance articles, soon realizing she underestimated the psychological effect the pandemic would have.
“Although I didn't feel overly worried on a conscious level, the stress of the circumstances expressed itself as an utter inability to focus. I couldn't concentrate well enough to write,” she shared.
After reading an article titled, “Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure,” by Aisha S. Ahmad, she gave herself something she had been neglecting – personal time.
“Instead of working on projects related to my professional practices, I spent time on low-stakes home improvement and sewing projects. I created things for my own enjoyment, with no intended audience and no goal of remuneration. The process was relaxing and grounding. Now, a few weeks later and without having done any particular introspection or psychological work, I once again feel creative and capable, although I'm still allowing myself the leeway to take time away from writing when I have a low-energy day.”
Another writer and poet admits that she is also struggling to create, with two kids taking up a lot of her time and energy.
“It's the least inspired I've been since I had a newborn in the house. It feels exactly like having a baby again, to have two kids around me full time needing a lot of my emotional attention,” she shared.
A cancelled writing residency in beautiful Banff was exceptionally disheartening and she has put her poetry manuscript on hold for now.
“I was sad about all this until about a week ago and then I accepted it and modified my approach successfully.”
Instead of putting pressure on herself to write, she’s been coping with a lack of writing inspiration by painting video game characters with her kids, and practicing covers of her favourite songs, with plans to use Facebook to live stream a complete performance.
Social media has been a blessing throughout COVID-19, as we are seeing creatives shift their use of the platform to engage with their followers and other like-minded people in new ways, while respecting social distance.
One local heavy metal musician is creating music with his bandmates by “writing killer riffs with my pals through messenger.”
Unable to jam in the traditional sense, this guitarist and his friends are recording videos and sending clips back and forth. While this slows down the creative process, it still makes creating possible without physical proximity.
“All of us live in different towns on the Avalon (Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador) and it’s a long drive for us all to meet,” he explained, noting that social media makes sharing content quick and convenient.
Still, without venues to play in or audiences to play for, there is a sense of frustration for many musicians, who are creating content but still missing traditional outlets. While live streaming may work for some – and may also be a cash cow depending on your social media following, presence and engagement – it can’t replace the feeling of playing on a stage in a crowded venue, snuggled in tightly with your bandmates as the jam-packed dance floor sways along with your tunes.
Some artists fear the impacts of live streaming on their livelihood when they return to the stage after months of providing free entertainment.
“I worry about the implications in the future for artists…why would you come to [a pub] and pay $15 to see me, when you can watch me play on Facebook live for free?” a professional musician asked.
That being said, she appreciates social media as a tool to engage with her community in other ways.
“I have still very much enjoyed learning and creating and sharing with the internet. I’ve just been choosing to share (and actually enjoying the excuse to share) things that aren’t what I always do...like playing banjo and making weird comics,” she explained, noting that some days are more creative and engaging than others. “I’ve also had days where I stare at my phone and eat a kilogram of mini eggs and do nothing else,” she added with a laugh.
Another musician, who is a classroom and private music teacher, says his productivity ebbs and flows.
“Every day has its ups and downs. I go between feeling motivated to get work done and then questioning what the point of it all is. I always end up assuming that it's natural and tell myself to get back to work,” he shared.
Using daily to-do lists, he has found the motivation to continue to create in his home studio and home office – arranging film scores for his concert bands, developing a set of worksheets to build music literacy for teenage musicians, doing session work for other artists’ projects, writing and recording new music. Staying busy helps this artist regulate his emotions.
“It’s suppressing any separation sadness that I may be feeling because I’m not in the classroom working with my concert bands, jazz bands and choirs,” he shared.
While career creatives are mourning the loss of some of their creative outlets, there’s a flip side that cannot be omitted: this pandemic “house arrest” has inspired people who don’t identify as an “artist” to begin creating artworks.
One small business owner and tile installer began making driftwood sculptures, selling his pieces for cash through social media after an outpouring of interest.
“I create art, but I don’t really feel like an artist. It’s literally me in my shed making sh*t and people seeing it on Facebook and offering me money for it,” he shared with a laugh.
It’s obvious that this pandemic can’t stop our creative output. We’ll get through this together. Remember, we’re artists – staring at your phone and eating a kilogram of mini eggs may just be a necessary part of the creative process.