Staying creative can be challenging even in the best of times, but it can become more of a struggle amid a pandemic; without your usual modes of inspiration (traveling, conversations with colleagues, and the like), you may be feeling a bit stale.
That said, many have been searching for ways to keep their creative juices flowing, whether you're facing a WFH slump or are simply looking for new ways to get inspired. That's why we consulted Elizabeth Stein, founder and CEO of Purely Elizabeth; Stein sure knows a thing or two about creativity (especially in the entrepreneurial space), as she's personally using this time to turn lemons into, well, lemon-blueberry oatmeal.
Here are three ways you can stay creative during the pandemic, à la Stein:
1. Discover what truly inspires you.
"Being on the road, for work or pleasure, was always that time I felt the most inspired," Stein shares. Whether it's trying different restaurants and flavor combinations or simply exploring a new city with a friend, she values that time to spark new innovations for her brand.
It's a little more difficult to replicate during our new normal: Travel is limited, not all restaurants are opening their doors, and social distancing is still very much in effect. So Stein looked inward: What was it about her time on the road that truly made her feel so inspired? After some reflection, she realized what truly makes her tick is engaging in something new—exploring restaurants is a plus, sure, but the real kicker is that sense of adventure.
"At home, now it's finding as many new hikes as I can, that newness and space to think," she explains. Rather than sitting down at a new restaurant, she's discovering new hiking trails—both of which allow her to slip into a creative mindset.
2. Use the kitchen to your advantage.
Stein loves trying new restaurants for inspiration, but she also sees creative value in her own kitchen. "I've always loved the creative outlet in the kitchen, but [the pandemic] amplified it so much more for me," she says. As trips to the grocery store become a bit more limited during this time, Stein has challenged herself to use up whatever ingredients she has on-hand in new, creative ways.
Her favorite concoction of the moment is a simple broccoli bake: She mixes broccoli, pesto, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, lemon, and capers together and roasts it all in the oven. Casseroles like this are perfect to keep your creative juices flowing—simply chuck whatever yummy ingredients you have on hand into the pan, and you've got yourself an easy and delicious meal.
The kitchen is also a place of relaxation for Stein: "It's my meditative time to not think about anything else other than chopping some vegetables," she notes. For many, cooking is a lovely way to unwind after a busy day—even before the pandemic—and that relaxation might make room for your creativity to shine.
3. Pencil in time for self-care.
Sometimes, the best creative moments stem from a little self-care. Stein is certainly on board, as she notes: "I need to feel good in my body in order to be a good business person at the same time."
For her, a moment of self-care is a morning workout or midday walk. "[I need] that time to open my mind and think." For you, it may look a little different—a yoga flow, morning coffee run, or dinnertime routine—but the key here is focusing on yourself for a time. This oft-mentioned work-life balance is crucial, and a healthy equilibrium can actually lead to better results; if creativity is what you're looking for, spending some time not thinking about the task at hand can actually be quite helpful. Allow yourself that time to just be, and the benefits will likely pay off.
Allow us to emphasize: There's no rule that you have to keep your creativity up to speed, as we all are coping with the pandemic in different ways. Quarantine can feel like a productivity contest at times, but if you feel like watching an episode (or season) of TV or getting lost in a novel—that's OK! The No. 1 priority is your health, both physical and mental; by no means is it necessary to brainstorm a business plan or spring on some home projects in the name of creativity.
But if you are looking for ways to spark some new ideas, consider these three tips a sure place to start. What works for Stein may not inspire you the same way, so you may want to approach these as guidelines, not so much as hard-and-fast rules. As Stein tells us, don't become too caught up in making everything perfect. "It's all going to work out."