How do you stay inspired during quarantine? 10 writers weigh in.

Welcome to the season of introspection, our contributors take it one day at a time.

Cultured Magazine

Photo by Jade Stephens on Unsplash.
Photo credit: Jade Stephens on Unsplash

We’ve been collectively hunkered down for weeks now, and for many it may seem like a lot longer. During this time, we’ve become overly familiar with our homes. If you feel bored, that’s nothing unusual. If you feel less than inspired, that’s not strange either. Maybe being out and about helped you to fuel and generate ideas.

It’s important to remember, though, that though quarantine has deprived us of intimate contact with our muses—we still have a say in how we go about our days. We asked a group of our writers to share how they are staying inspired, stimulated and creative when unable to change their physical surroundings. Their answers provide tips both practical and existential.

Khalila Douze | @khaliladouze
Engage in play. For some that’s video games, for others it’s puzzles. Play with yourself and against yourself. Do some pushups or meditate for a few minutes, and then make it your goal to one-up the you from yesterday. You can even treat cooking like a game; how many attempts will it take you to make the perfect pizza from scratch? Looking at our new way of life as a challenge, with victory on the horizon, has been helping me to manage my anxiety, stay curious, and allow new ideas, even epiphanies, to flow through. 

Vivan Chui | @vwchui
I am finding it helpful to view forced domesticity as an opportunity to catch up on all of the things that we seldom have time for in our normal, busy lives: reading books and magazines, practicing yoga and taking advantage of the incredible online content that has been made available by galleries and art institutions. These activities have felt like rejuvenating sources of inspiration for me—a desperately needed respite from the anxiety caused by this unprecedented time! 

Erin Leland
So far, my tactic has been to clean out drawers and closets in my apartment. Each day, a new drawer, a new cabinet. Doing this leads to satisfaction and a small burst of energy. 

 Jonathan González | @jonathangonzalezetc
1.) Police Were Always The Virus
2.) What Would A Nation United Look Like That Cared For The Poor?
3.) Let’s Dream Space Together
4.) We Won’t Die for the Dow

Vanessa Thill | @vsthill
I’m finding inspiration from #cancelrent and from a new era of peer-to-peer organizing that is happening right now. You are already doing it if you are talking on the phone or IRL with your neighbors, reaching out to friends to check on them, or talking about how to support each other and connect the dots between needs and resources. We are all we have. Now is the opportunity to leave a note for your neighbor, ask your landlord for an extension, a discount, or a cancellation of this month’s rent. Now is the moment to join a mutual aid group, call your reps, use your voice. This is it. There is no love like the love of solidarity. This is a fucked up scary time but it’s the groundwork for a new society. . . that’s inspiring if we rise to the occasion, and we must. Make drawings while you call your friends and family. Helps with the restlessness and loneliness. Send drawings and notes to loved ones in the mail. Try out a divination practice. It sounds silly, but when things feel overwhelming, it can be soothing. Sit comfortably on the floor. Close your eyes and breathe slowly for two minutes. Think of a question, such as: how can I support peace and creativity in my life right now? Choose a book (a poetry book, art book, spiritual book, or book of special importance to you will work best) and place the spine facing down with your hands on the edges of the pages. Spread your fingers and press down, so there is pressure across the pages, and feel for a page that seems to want to open. Open to that page and see if there is any image or idea that can guide you. Perhaps something on that page can lead you to imagine how you would feel if that peace and creativity were yours. What would that feel like in the body? Where in the body, and what color, texture, smell, shape, sound? 

 Cat Kron | @therealfairfieldporter
Having slogged through months of writer’s block and lately through a (the ???) virus, I’m finding ancient touchstones to be newly inspirational. Grad school xeroxes, favorite books from childhood, decades-old catalogs I’ve hauled to and from apartments and across state lines…this former archivist exhorts you to revisit the things you’ve saved against your better judgement.  

Monica Uszerowicz | @monicalaurasimone 
I’ve been thinking less about generating ideas and more about the opposite: how to be comfortable with not generating much of anything. Perhaps the regenerative notions I’m pondering are about other things, not “art”:how to better nourish my friends, family, community, body; how to be a better steward of the planet; how to address the ongoing pains this pandemic has made clearer. Actually, those are all ways of generating new ideas, right? Also, the things in which I’m finding comfort are pretty inspiring: the changing landscape of my city, lizard-watching, comfort-snacking. 

Mieke ten Have | @mieketenhave
Ensconced in our converted barn in rural New York, I have turned a bathroom into a little hothouse. While I often work with (and immensely love) flowers, my thumb is decidedly black. I’ve always felt a strange, irrational paralysis about cultivating my own plants. So, I am taking this time—this time that feels outside of time—to watch flowers grow. Planted seeds of lupine, foxglove, cosmos, climbing sweet peas, anemone and columbine now commandeer the bathtub, sink and floor. I have snipped bare forsythia and cherry branches, slicing their ends for a warm water bath in zinc buckets to coax their blooms. After their stay in the hothouse bathroom, I arrange them into sculptural, optimistic harbingers of the tender weather I long for. After my toddler daughter, my seedlings are the first things I saunter downstairs to check on each morning. I tend to them throughout the day, shuffling the cells around to spots of sun and shade, keeping the soil moist but not too much so, and rotating their faces to and from the windows. Some have unfurled green filaments—rays of hope—while other cells rest still dormant and expectant. It gives me something to do and think about. There is no rushing, only watching and tending and waiting; a meditation for today and the days that lay ahead. 

Jacoba Urist |  @jacnyc
I’ve been finding, revisiting and watching videos I took on my phone of iconic land art visits and outdoor desert exhibitions. I’ve been watching one a day. I can’t tell you how moved I am to see them again, and to feel physically transported. For example: a video I took with absolutely nobody else around (well, besides my husband and child) of Double Negative last May. Another I find so moving is of my time (also totally alone, just my husband) in Joshua Tree visiting Noah Purify’s outdoor museum (the trip was back in 2016 and I had forgotten all about it). I plan to revisit Doug Aiken’s Mirage House from the first 2017 Desert X tomorrow (which I hadn’t thought about in ages). I’m already kind of pumped for the “trip.” There is something about remembering actually being there—the anticipation, the smells, the sounds, the feel of the desert air, the sand, the light that transports my mind. 

Esra Padgett | @chickfishlette
Whenever I find myself in an in-between moment of my life—no stack of work before me, no list of articles to read, I turn to fiction, more specifically science fiction, and let the banal details of my life slowly become replaced with imaginations of a future world. But this time is different. The future doesn’t put me at ease right now, it just opens up the wound of uncertainty we are all nursing. But I still want to read. I’ve taken to reading historical fiction instead; it might seem like a small change, but for me it is significant. In histories that have never interested me before, the past opens up before me and brings the relief of cycles completed, the paths of survivors, the ebb and flow of grief, the churning of anxieties and their resolution in the collective struggle. This is the imagination I want to immerse myself in right now. This is a time to take comfort in the past.