Seeking Creativity in the Pandemic

I have always struggled with forced creativity. Working in an office, working at a desk, working at a computer have always been stifling. Good thing I chose to be a librarian, right? Of course, I have developed several strategies to help cope with this and inspire creativity and positivity in my work: multitasking, going for short walks, breathing exercises, and perhaps most importantly, listening to music. In high school I discovered that I did my best, most focused school work when I blasted music.

Music sooths my anxiety, allows me to focus, and inspires creativity when I need it most. This has led me down some fascinating music rabbit holes and to develop quite the record collection. As the pandemic began and I transitioned to working from home, I quickly realized a silver lining: I’d be able to listen to my records while working. In fact, I am currently spinning David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Working from home has opened the door to other new paths to inspiring creativity. A couple of weeks ago I attended an LIS Pedagogy Chat moderated by Lisa Hinchliffe. I have been extremely grateful for each LIS Pedagogy Chat that I’ve been able to make this semester, but there were a couple of discussion points from this one that really hit home. The session titled “What’s Going Well?” encouraged all sixty or so participants to share what had been working for them this semester. I didn’t have the energy to weigh in during this session, but listening to the successes of the other participants was a nourishing experience. For me, the question that brought out the most inspiring and relatable answers was, “What environments bring out your best work?”

The answers to this question included a variety of environments and actions that ranged from taking a nap after an instruction session to baking cookies while brainstorming. The librarians sharing their experiences not only portrayed these practices as legitimate but in some cases as necessary. This broader understanding of work environments and practices has been helpful to understanding the ways in which I work best.

Throughout the work day I often get urges to get up and cook, water my plants, take a shower, walk my dog, or generally get out in nature. In the past this has felt like some kind of breach of professionalism. And, while I have felt apprehensive about giving myself over to these meanderings, I have found that my most productive and creative brainstorming frequently occurs in environments that do not include the cold light of my computer screen. Taking a moment to unpack this, I realized that the act of doing something creative but relatively mindless, like cooking, triggers my creativity in ways that a standard work environment does not. Alternatively, less creative, but physically active measures keep both my mind and body from stagnation.

I’ve felt guilty about my wandering path to creativity and productivity, but hearing from other librarians that this can be a legitimate strategy has allowed me to embrace that work can take different forms and my best work doesn’t always happen in the conventional work environment associated with academia.

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