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COVID-19 lockdown is unleashing people's creativity

Armed with today's advanced digital tools and itching to express ourselves, "boredom" is bringing out the best in us.

  • While staying at home, many are exploring their creative sides to unprecedented levels, sharing their creations with the world in similarly novel, and sometimes collaborative, ways.
  • People are finding amazing ways to create and to share from the safety of their homes using apps designed to promote expression and not simply distract users.
  • Creative professionals are also stuck at home, facing unemployment, and a lack of access to their usual creative outlets.

In the mess of bad news surrounding COVID-19, it can be hard to see a silver lining. There have, however, been some positive outcomes. People are learning new skills, bonding with family, helping once-anonymous neighbors, and connecting with their wider communities.

While millions are stuck at home during lockdown, many are also exploring their creative sides to unprecedented levels – and are sharing their creations with the world in similarly novel, and sometimes collaborative, ways.

So what is it about forced isolation that brings out people's creative sides? Apparently, boredom has a lot to do with it, at least according to science.

The inspiration of boredom 

Pandemic-related lockdowns and social distancing restrictions have led to millions of people around the world being shut in, isolated and increasingly bored. But might that actually be a good thing?

Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire and author of the books "The Upside of Downtime" and "The Science of Boredom," is researching how boredom can be a creative force.

In fact, being bored during this time is unleashing a veritable global creative renaissance. Of course, for many impacted by the virus, boredom is a luxury. Millions are out of work, including many creative professionals, and others are too busy dealing with working from home or job loss, homeschooling children without an end in sight, or are tragically coping with the virus itself.

However, for many, boredom has become a common theme in this new normal – and that might not be the worst thing. Mann advises her audience to "Harness your boredom by getting bored," explaining that when you really let yourself be bored without distraction, you are forced to let your mind wander and find new ways to occupy itself.

"That means real boredom, which is where you have to let your mind wander," she says. "This is the real key. Daydreaming and mind wandering. Don't turn to the internet or try to scroll your boredom away."

While scrolling away might not fuel creativity, people are finding amazing ways to create and to share from the safety of their homes using apps designed to promote expression and not simply distract users. In one survey from Lightricks, a software company that specializes in mobile tools for creative expression, over 70 percent of respondents said that using a creativity app helped them overcome anxiety and more than 90 percent responded that they use creativity apps to combat boredom.

What are people doing to get creative under quarantine?

Every day people are going deep with amazing art projects and finding ingenious ways to stay occupied. The trend is, in part, inspired by the need to keep kids busy and engaged, but the wave of creativity goes way beyond this motivation.

Instead of shutting down and switching off, people have become creators of content rather than just passive consumers.

  • Early on in the pandemic, families and friends found ways to keep busy and have fun with creative TikTok dance videos. This trend has only picked up as the months have wore on, with COVID-19 related hashtags like #quarantine and #happyathome connecting users across the globe.
  • Pinterest is another tech platform that is helping people get creative at home. With searches up 60 percent from this time last year and over 30 million new users joining the platform from January to June, DIY and craft projects are some of the most popular pins.
  • With public places becoming breeding grounds for coronavirus infection, classes and clubs for art forms like parkour and capoeira have moved to virtual spaces, with different modes of movement.
  • New apps are also offering a digital space to be creative and maintain social networks, support others, and maintain mental health. One such app is Quickart. In a press release, the creators of the app explained that the pandemic has "accelerated consumer appetite for powerful, easy-to-use creative tools that empower users to unleash their artistic expression while offering them an escape." With filters like Split Colours (below) and AI-enhanced animation tools, this app is blowing users away and putting the power of advanced editing in the hand of every person – no professional skills required.

@sereiadosuburbio via Instagram

  • In one incredible project, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles tweeted a challenge for people to recreate famous works of art at home. This unleashed an amazing display of creativity as people everywhere reached for everyday objects to reimagine masterpieces.
  • Using an app called Mudeo, people are recording themselves singing, or playing instruments, and then layering additional tracks on top of themselves to create rich self-accompanied arrangements on the fly.

Creative professionals are getting in on the fun

Creative professionals are also stuck at home, facing unemployment and a lack of access to their usual creative outlets.

With amazing resilience, this sector is rising to the occasion in amazing ways that, thanks to technology, are inspiring millions of people around the world.

  • Professional musicians and DJs are playing free-access online concerts and dance parties. Collaborating from their homes in Brooklyn and Paris, for example, one rock school recorded a "family jam" of "With a Little Help From My Friends" by the Beatles, captioned with the words: "Created Under Confinement."
  • The #QuarantineFiction campaign encourages authors (and aspiring authors) to write and share their stories, whether it's a memoir or a work of fiction. People can even compose together, and the best stories will be compiled in a book and made accessible all over the world.
  • A home mural festival featuring artists from around the world, giving them the opportunity to come together and find a creative outlet together. One of the artists involved in the mural project, Jacoba Niepoort, told This Is Colossal: "Being cooped up has presented an opportunity to come together in new ways, both as coordinators and as artists. To share visuals of the space and time we're standing in now, created in solitude, but with the solidarity and simultaneousness being an important value-factor."
window ink mural of birds

@daviddelamano_ via Instagram

Adapting creativity to suit the strange circumstances has born inspiring fruit with many otherwise disconnected aspiring artists finding connection, community and opportunities to create and distribute their work.

This, in turn, is helping to ease the anxiety, loneliness and boredom of lockdown. Of course, all of this creativity is propelled by the ability to share it with an unlimited audience online.

Locked down and spreading wings

In 1665, the Great Plague raged across Europe, and Isaac Newton was sent home from his post at Cambridge. Confined indefinitely to his home, Newton got creative and invented calculus.

COVID-19 is another pandemic proving the creative force of adversity and boredom to inspire ingenuity and art. With agility and perseverance, people will find new ways to cultivate creativity and express themselves. With fun and jaw-dropping tools available on any phone, people everywhere are using their devices to create content and share it with the world, to inspire and be inspired.

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