In times of intense turmoil and uncertainty, creativity can give artists meaning, comfort, and direction when they’d otherwise feel aimless. Musicians are just one of the countless groups of people seeing their professions get upended during the COVID-19 crisis. Embracing creativity during this painful time won’t bring your life back to normal or fix what’s wrong. But it can make some of our lives better in a meaningful way.
What maintaining a creative practice gives musicians during challenging times
What most of us consider normal has become a thing of the past in the age of COVID-19. Maintaining a regular creative practice can give musicians during this time is structure, hope, excitement, and goals to work towards. If you tour for a living or regularly practice with bandmates, the usual ways you express yourself through music are inevitably going to be very different right now. But making an effort to keep the act of creating and exploring music during this time is important. It can be something that strengthens you not only as a musician but also as a person.
It’s easy to forget this, but creativity enriches our lives in profound ways during normal circumstances as well. The difference now is that musicians will be more inclined to seek out creativity as a lifeline during the pandemic. Everything around us might be changing, but that doesn’t mean our connection with music has to as well. By turning to musical creativity during this crisis, we’ll have an outlet that can center and strengthen us. But, as we’ll soon see, that doesn’t mean making music will be easy for every musician right now.
The challenge of embracing creativity during a crisis
In times of tragedy, some musicians view creativity as a lifeboat while others can’t think about music at all. Musicians who can easily create right now aren’t better or more devoted to their craft than those who can’t. One of the worst things we can do is to oversimplify things in the midst of tragedy. If being musically creative is tough or even impossible right now, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. From unforeseen challenges that spring up while working from home to being overwhelmed by despair and anxiety, it’s completely understandable why engaging with music is difficult for many of us right now.
This is why tailoring expectations and being kind and patient with ourselves is paramount right now. You might want a “business as usual approach” with your musical practice right now, but no one and nothing is normal at the moment. If you find yourself less productive than usual or unable to work at all, try responding to yourself the way you would with a friend who is going through an extremely difficult time. Creativity can absolutely strengthen and enrich our lives during a tragedy, but that doesn’t mean we’ll always be able to access it to make the kind of music we think we should be making.
It’s good to have goals to work towards during this time. But it’s also a good idea to ease up on the typical pressures and expectations that drive your creative work. Like during normal circumstances, we want to create great work, but things don’t always go our way. Forcing things to happen and working when we feel like we can’t is a terrible idea right now. Working like this deprives us of the benefits of creativity, and it won’t result in meaningful work. There’s a difference between putting hard work into our music careers and unnaturally pushing through when we just don’t have it in us.
One of the most comforting aspects of creativity is that it’s always there when we need it. If music feels impossible to focus on one day, it’ll be there waiting for you the next. By pursuing music in a healthy way, you’ll have a way to find hope and humanity during this crisis.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.