As I write this, we’re enter­ing the fifth month of stay­ing mostly at home to help slow the spread of COVID-​19. Like many, I’ve occa­sion­ally strug­gled with mental health during this time, between over­all anxi­eties and the odd expe­ri­ence of every day feel­ing the same. (Though I also recog­nize that I’ve been fortu­nate: My rela­tive privilege—with a job that can be done from anywhere—has kept me econom­i­cally insulated.)

One small way I’m trying to fight off those monot­ony blues: I’m lean­ing into the situ­a­tion by work­ing to build some new “a-​bit-​each-​day” creative prac­tices. There are a bunch of skills I’ve been want­ing to learn or improve, so I’m seiz­ing the oppor­tu­nity to add them into my life, a tiny bit at a time.

What I’ve been doing: 

  • improv­ing my motion graph­ics skills
  • prac­tic­ing hand-lettering
  • prac­tic­ing piano
  • getting back to an old type design project I had let sit for a while

There are a couple lessons I’m trying to keep in mind:

  • It’s OK to be bad at things. One of my personal fail­ings is that I hate not seeing imme­di­ate results when I learn or try some­thing new. But on the days where it feels like I’m running uphill, I try to remem­ber that the point is just to put one foot in front of the other for a while each day, and even­tu­ally you’ll get somewhere.
  • Even when you’re not outcome-​focused, it’s good to have real assign­ments. Even if I don’t end up show­ing them to anyone, “real” projects (as opposed to just mess­ing around aimlessly) help moti­vate me. They provide a frame­work for delib­er­ate prac­tice and momen­tum, which helps me see where I’m actu­ally making progress. It feels good to have little accom­plish­ments to build toward, too.

Here’s one of those real assign­ments: a simple, fun lyric video for my band Reforester’s new single, which was released today. (We recorded it prior to the lock­down.) The anima­tion, produced in After Effects, is fairly rudi­men­tary, because that’s what my current skill level allows. But I think the concept has enough weight—and enough subtle humor—that it supports the vibe of the song and hope­fully holds a viewer’s inter­est. And I learned some­thing doing it, which wouldn’t have happened with­out a real assign­ment that met my skills just beyond where they were.

It always feels weird to promote my own work when the world is in a state like its current one. But I’m trying to remem­ber that creativ­ity always has value, even when other things are taking center stage.

I hope you’re doing OK, wher­ever you are.