Silk + Smoke guest blogger Georgina Wilkinson writes on the constant pressure to be productive and creative under lockdown in this love letter to overachievers and procrastinators alike.
It’s not exactly a Hot Take to say that our lives have changed more in the past few weeks than any of us thought possible – we can’t get haircuts, we can’t buy ice cream, and – most tragically – we can’t sit in beer gardens to take advantage of the sunshine. As soon as lockdown was announced, we knew those things would be changing, and a big part of what’s seeing us through is knowing that, in time, they’ll be coming back.
In the meantime, however, there’s this horrible pressure to get on with business as usual. Being stuck inside means that suddenly all the time we used to spend seeing friends and family, indulging in such luxuries as sitting in parks and congregating in groups of more than three, is just empty – which in turn, leads to an overwhelming urge to fill it.
There’s a deeply destructive perception that any time that we’re not being productive is time wasted. This is uncomfortably pervasive at the best of times, but without our normal social lives to distract us it’s beginning to become suffocating.
The transition to working from home has brought many of our offices into our bedrooms; work becomes inescapable as huge computers are crammed onto cramped desks, surrounded by hairbands and makeup and scraps of whatever was going on in our lives before this fire-drill of an apocalypse, hastily swept out of the way to make space.
Our offices are now inescapable, and for a generation whose worth has been so intrinsically tied to our productivity, this makes it uncomfortably tempting to put in the extra hours, starting earlier and staying later than we ever would in the office for no extra pay. Without co-workers hanging about, breaks become boring and we go back to what we were doing earlier than we should just for something to do.
This compulsion to produce is reaching into our downtime as well. After a full week at work, I usually feel absolutely justified in a lie in and maybe one or two plans over the weekend, but leaving the house makes it easy to forget that social interaction itself is something that takes effort. I find myself trapped in an interminable cycle of Zoom calls and Skype catch-ups, since quarantine makes such an easy excuse to see old friends – people who live far away, or in different time zones, suddenly have the space in their schedule to sit on a Zoom call in the middle of the afternoon, or can stay up late since they don’t have to get up early for their commute.
When we’re not frantically clinging to the people we love in the best way we can, we feel like we need to create – eggs and flour have vanished from supermarket shelves as more people than ever have started baking. Links to various blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels are plastered across social media. It’s exhausting.
So, this is it. This is the sign you’ve been looking for – this is your permission to not be productive. Nothing great was ever made out of obligation. The compulsion to create things is an incredible one, and is one you should act on as wholeheartedly as you possibly can, but it’s not something worth manufacturing.
When the urge takes you, then jump headfirst into it – make pasta from scratch, use up old tubes of paint to decorate wine bottles and postcards, write, draw, dance, sing, put the best of yourself into the world in whatever small way you can. Until then, look after yourself and the people around you. Wash your hands, stay inside, stare at your friends and family through computers and phones. Do the best you can with what you have, and remember that you are more than your ability to create things.
Georgina recently graduated from a Masters in Fantasy; she now writes feature articles, creative nonfiction, and poetry whenever she can be bothered. The rest of the time, she watches too many sitcoms and argues passionately with the people she loves about things that don’t really matter. Follow Georgina on Twitter here and read more on her blog, Georgia Can’t Shut Up.