Creativity Jump Start in a Time of Crisis – Set up a Space

ATC Project Tray

Many people are noticing that it is challenging to get motivated and feel enthusiastic during this time of pandemic. I know I’m feeling that way myself. Luckily, I do have work to do and deadlines that are external. I’m not relying on my intrinsic motivation, which is not my primary skill anyway. I loved learning about Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, to come to the realization that I need not fight my own temperament, but could work with it. 

One of the things I am yet to do this month is initiate my “Month of” project for April, which I have decided to  make Scrapbook Embellishments. Last month was Art Trading Cards, which went very well. I simply set up a tray with lots of the elements I like to use such as vintage papers and collage elements, an old catalog, small rhinestones, stickers, and lots of colored pencils. It was easy to sit down with my precut blanks and enjoy making cards while I watched television with my husband in the evening. 

However, for this month being Scrapbook Embellishments, it seems that I need more of a setup. So I am well into the second week of April and have not yet begun my projects. I’d hate for my grand plans for a year of creativity to fizzle after only three good months. “A Quarter of Projects” doesn’t have quite the same ring.

Which brings me to a creativity jump start, which is “Set up your workspace”. 

Not everyone has the space within their own facility or home to set up a dedicated craft room or art studio. It would certainly help, but sometimes it is not possible. At our house, with my husband working from home via Zoom meetings, some of the space where I often spread out and make projects – that is to say our dining table – has become his dedicated office space. That’s fine, but it does mean that the multi-purpose room we variously call the Den, the Guest Room, the Storage Room, and the Library, will soon need to take on the additional use of Art Studio. I often film my resume review videos there. One thing we can be sure of is that it will not be needed as a guest room for some time.

Even something so small as setting up a tray is a helpful way to jump start your progress towards whatever project you are working on. I have always used trays to organize individual projects, especially small ones like my cloth art dolls. Trays are a good way to corral many small items such as containers of beads, pens, and small buttons. You may want to put your sketch book, a couple of drawing implements and an eraser on your small tray, so that you can take your studio with you to wherever you like in your home.

In my workroom –  there’s yet another name for it – I have a folding table on which I have temporarily set up a makeshift cyc for product and other similar photography. The truth is that having a clear table, close to my materials and my tools, is a luxury. 

Not fancy, near a window.

Here is how I am setting up my workspace, that includes the ability to add in an overhead mounted camera to show details of  my crafting work. I have a sketch pad for notes and planning, my cutting mat surface, a couple of containers to hold tools and small pieces so they don’t get lost, and space for the stacks of paper and other primary material that I will use. I can’t imagine that it will stay this tidy very long.

I wonder, am I using getting set up as a procrastination tool rather than a creativity jump start? I hope not. This is a time, a season of life, when it’s important to forgive ourselves if we aren’t as focused or on top of everything as we would normally expect to be. For some of us, just getting dressed in the morning despite having nowhere to go, has become an act of defiance against the forces of overwhelm and despair.

Most of the world is going through a time of collective trauma. People in the arts and entertainment have stepped forward to contribute all they can towards lifting our spirits. It may not be as immediately lifesaving as the work of medical professionals, or as remarkable as the quiet steadfastness of the people working retail and delivery who have become unlikely heroes in the current crisis. But it is the artists and poets and writers who will chronicle these stories of strength, sacrifice, and resilience, and help us remember where our heroes live – not only in forts, but next door.

I like to think that creating something that is part of memory crafting is a small testament to the idea that there will be a positive future. People, including myself, will want to look at scrapbooks. I believe that there is always a place for diminutive arts and happy crafting. Some of these embellishments will be useful for card-making too, which is a way to connect with others with a tangible object, hopefully when it is safe to send something in the mail that would not be looked on with suspicion or sprayed down with alcohol.

Good luck to everybody in their endeavors to carve out a space for an arts and creativity practice in what can sometimes feel like an overcrowded household. Good luck to everybody battling loneliness and isolation, if you are living in a home that seems way too large without loved ones nearby. I hope doing some scrapbooking and memory keeping will help you feel emotionally closer to your families and beloveds. I’m going to keep posting my progress on my Facebook page, and perhaps even explore some different aesthetic preferences in my making this month.

Stay home, stay safe, and happy crafting.


Resource: Stay Connected with Mel Robbins half-hour daily live video on multiple streaming places including YouTube, FB and Instagram.