Finding Creativity during a Pandemic
Updated: Sep 9
It goes without saying that over the last few months, we’ve all struggled to find a new kind of work-life balance. Creativity can play a huge part in our professional or personal lives, and I’ve been having some great conversations with friends and family about how they are finding the space to work creatively during a pandemic.
Take my friend, Richard Greenberg for example, who I’ve known for over 10 years. Or have I really known him? He’s a successful HR consultant with his own firm, a former head of HR, an executive coach, and an author. I know he has two grown children and has been married 35 years. But I had no idea he could write songs, let alone create a music video that now has over 20,000 views in two weeks on YouTube! His daughter joined him in this creative work.
My son, Erik and his girlfriend (and her business partner) are great examples of Millennials that work in the creative sectors, often as gig worker, that are used to unpredictability in the workplace. I loved hearing how they are doing their best to adapt to these times in a way that can even sometimes be empowering.
You can read more about their stories below.
The Creativity in…Me?
By Richard A. Greenberg
I wrote songs in my early 20s, always a gut-wrenching process. Lots of scribbles on paper, a few strums of the guitar, and then piles of crumpled paper on the floor.
The closest I came to the big time was working for Berry Gordy for a few months. He told me how he co-wrote the song “Money (That’s What I Want),” when he felt desperate and simply wrote about his wants and needs. This is fantastic, I thought. I have the key to great songwriting. I ended up with more crumpled paper on the floor.
It’s been nearly 40 years since I stopped writing songs. I still write an occasional poem or lyric, but full songs? Not really. Then, the pandemic happened. George Floyd was murdered. And something happened inside me. I felt open, raw, different.
When I look back just a few short months, I believe I became hyper receptive. It’s difficult to explain. I was no longer judging or external to events. I was simply open. And this openness allowed me to receive inspiration to complete a new song. One I felt compelled to finish despite all COVID-19 and other obstacles we all live with now. A song that came to me in a dream, and all I did was write it down.
With my daughter by my side and providing vocals, we created a music video dedicated to George Floyd.
Watch Richard's music video here.
Listen to the song on Soundcloud.
By Erik Benjamins, Artist & Writer
In my dual careers as an artist and writer, I’ve found flexibility to be one of the most important strengths. With art projects that usually means always allowing openings to switch up materials, bring on a collaborator, or to make a drastic change if things aren’t feeling right. As a writer, often working closely with a client, being flexible means having the confidence to shift voices, styles or formats to best serve the project at hand.
Writing work has slowed during the pandemic. Thankfully there were a few projects that helped me get through the early weeks. Then in April I received an email from Seed, a forward-looking science organization dedicated to the microbiome. They were working on a five-chapter, learn-from-home educational series for their Instagram Stories. Each chapter would be introduced with an artist and they wanted to know if I would help kick off one of their chapters with a suite of haiku.
My chapter titled, “What the F is Gut Health Anyway?” focused specifically on the relationship between a happy gut and a healthy poo. I ended up writing four haiku that utilized poetic brevity to talk about an important, if not hilarious, aspect of body health. Without a willingness to flex and adjust to the brief, I’m unsure I’d be able to create an introductory text that balanced humor, accessibility and the seriousness of the topic at hand. Even though it was a short project, I’m proud of how it utilized a kind of creative flexibility under the pressure of pandemic stresses and overall unpredictability.
Read Erik's haiku here.
See Seed's amazing Instagram Educational series on their account.
Design & Unpredictability
Three Sheep (Nicole Choy & Justin Coates), Interior Design Studio
We were just a few months into our business when the global pandemic hit. For better or worse, the idea of beginning a new professional chapter during a time of crisis was not something new for us, as we both finished college during the height of the last economic recession.
In March, the two new projects that we were bidding on both fell through, but we were thankful to have an exciting invitation. A local design gallery, Marta, had invited us to participate in an upcoming show, which invited artists and designers from around the world to re-imagine the toilet paper holder. Believe it or not, this was before the great COVID TP shortage of 2020 and instead something co-sponsored by Plant Paper, a tree-free eco-friendly toilet paper company.
So during the height of shelter-in-place orders with a bit more free time on our hands that we expected, we worked on our toilet paper holder by not only responding to the exhibition prompt, but also exploring how this design object, our first as a studio, could reflect the creativity spirit and brand identity of Three Sheep. Eventually we arrived on an organic, curving linear form, cast in bronze. Sure, “Linea” is a toilet paper holder, but it’s also a poetic representation of our creative spirit, one that relishes in imperfect beauty, collaborative invention, and a less-is-more mentality.
We’re incredibly proud of it and are thankful to have had the opportunity and time during these difficult times to work together and foster our creative voice.
Following along with Nicole and Justin’s work on Instagram.
Learn more about the toilet paper holder show here.