Unexpected creative sparks during the Covid-19 lockdown
I never imagined that confinement in my small house would spark creativity in me. But that’s exactly what’s happened after almost two months stuck inside due to Covid-19.
I have two groups of amazing women to thank for this creative burst: my Women Photograph weekly Zoom meeting and my writing club, which used to gather in person every week but now meets every Wednesday and Friday (more or less) via WhatsApp.
I didn’t know any of the photographers before Women Photograph editors randomly assembled us into a group. We’re spread all over the world: Italy, Norway, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States. In our first meeting back in March, we mostly talked about how our countries were handling the coronavirus. Now we mostly talk about photography. We share our story ideas, our career worries and our progress on photo projects. Somehow, through these conversations and without ever meeting in person, we’ve become friends and a kind of support group. And some of our photos have been featured together on the Women Photograph Journal Instagram account.
One of the most interesting things I’ve learned in my photo group is about the difference between creating photographs and documenting situations. I’d never thought about this much before. I think this is because to me, creating a photograph means manipulating a situation or Photoshopping an image. Coming from a photojournalism background, this is a no-no. But I rarely work as a photojournalist anymore. And since I’m stuck at home, why not do more than document life in my little abode? I definitely have the time.
It’s been challenging and fun to use photography as a creative tool for interpreting my own feelings and emotions. I’m pleasantly surprised by some of the images I’ve made. I’m now rethinking my approach to at least one photo project I hope to work on once I can move about more freely.
Just like with my photo group, I didn’t know anyone in my writing club when I first joined last October. My husband found the group on Meetup and urged me to join. He knew I wanted to connect with nearby writers as a way to keep myself accountable for a big writing project I’ve been working on for over a year: my memoir.
Yes! I’m writing a memoir. Now that I’ve put this info out there in public, more of you will ask me about it, which means I have to do it, which means I’ll absolutely get it done. Thanks to all of you for keeping me accountable!
My memoir is about growing up as a Korean-American military brat with dreams of being an Olympic gymnast (not-so-spoiler alert: I didn’t make it to the Olympics). I’m writing the book as a collection of essays. In the five months before the lockdown, I wrote parts of four essays. In the two months since lockdown started, I’ve polished off all four and written a new one that is pretty funny — or so my friend-reviewers tell me. I wrote that fourth one in five hours straight. It just flowed out of me. Of course, I did a lot of editing afterward. And then I pitched it to be published on its own. This means I also wrote the pitch, which I consider no mean feat since you’ve got to write it in a succinct yet persuasive way to sell your story. In fact, four people reviewed my pitch for me — what kind souls!
No one is more surprised than I am about how my creativity has flourished in the midst of a global pandemic. And I recognize that I’m privileged to be in a safe and comfortable space — both physically and mentally — where this creativity can blossom. As it turns out, boredom and constraints can often lead to creative insights. Art from the 1918 flu pandemic is evidence of that. I wonder what interesting and memorable paintings, photos, books, songs and movies will come out of the Covid-19 lockdown era.