No, You Don't Need to Produce Great Creative Work During a Pandemic

David Fox

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We are living in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. A global pandemic has taken hold, stock markets are crumbling, businesses are closing, everything is cancelled and life itself is being put on pause.

Against that backdrop, it’s perfectly reasonable to be uncertain, to be worried, to be scared — but you might have noticed a lot of people on the internet telling you to be productive, too.

“Now is the perfect time to finish that project!” they trill. “Shakespeare wrote his best work during the plague,” they remind you.

Yeah, that’s right — forget worrying about your children or your parents, or how you will cope financially without work. Got a cough? Forget about it, finish that project!

Please, no. Can we not even be unproductive during a global pandemic? Do we have to keep churning out quality content as the world burns?

This doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. If drawing, or writing, or any other creative pursuit helps you during this difficult time then keep doing it. But don’t stress about completing some big project. You don’t have to produce something with every second of free time.

Yes, Shakespeare wrote great plays while in isolation from the plague. But he was being paid for that work. Your project may not be bringing in money right now, and it’s understandable that it may not be your focus.

If you do have extra free time, you might want to relax instead of work. You could work on your project, but you could also go for a walk, play with your kids, snuggle with your pets, or read a good book. Take up yoga or mediation, re-watch a favourte show or film (or discover new ones). In fact, you don’t even need to spend your free time doing something high-minded. If trashy reality TV makes you feel less stressed about the state of things, then binge on that.

Not working on your project is a perfectly reasonable response to the pandemic. Don’t let the productivity gurus make you feel guilty for not working all the time.

You are worth more than what you produce.

You don’t owe the world some great work of literature from this pandemic. We won’t be all comparing our creative masterpieces on the other side of this, whenever that is. All we need to do is whatever we can to get to the other side. Productivity does not necessarily have to be a part of that.

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David is an author and freelance writer. He has published two books of short stories and his first novel is due to be released in January 2021. He writes about parenting, relationships and life with a disability, as well as about pop culture, writing, productivity, politics and soccer. His work has appared in The Mighty, Apparently, Movie Pilot, WhatCulture, Vocal Media, What Millenials Want, State of the Game, FootballEye, Football Critic, The False 9 and Just Football.

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