Creatives: We need them now more than ever.

In times of uncertainty, it’s art, music, books, television we turn to soothe our anxieties. But the cruel irony of it all is that creatives are now the first to go in the grips of an economic crisis. This means an aspiring musician must constantly confront potentially not ‘making it’; freelancers are frequently concerned with work drying up without warning; writers must weigh their great novels with paying their rents.

Diverse creatives, musicians, black guy dreads coronavirus

The insecurity creatives think about on the daily is increased tenfold in uncertain times, and yet, their output is never more vital. For those cooped inside without roommates or romance, the highlight of their week may be a new release from their favorite artist (hats off to The Weeknd). Others questioning quarantine turn to online publications to relate to others. Pandemics don’t discriminate — we’re all currently crammed in the same boat, and could really use some in-flight entertainment, or education. Here’s how 7 creatives are staying sane while in self-isolation and quarantine.

SEE ALSO: I’m surviving self-quarantining through beauty meditation

From self-care in self-isolation to navigating a dramatically different office environment (particularly with an overwhelming or newly decreased workload), we checked in with some creatives as to how they’re staying sane and stimulated when they’ve never been more vulnerable.

Cam O’bi, music producer
Los Angeles

Cam O'bi
Photo courtesy of Cam O’bi/Julian Dakdouk

How have you navigated the transition to operating remotely? Has your work been affected by current events?

Operating remotely has already been a big part of my industry, although I often like to meet with people face to face, and I seem to be in the minority among producers when it comes to my preference for scheduling in-person studio sessions rather than sending beats via email.

My father was laid off from his job as a dealer at one of the casinos on the strip in Las Vegas. The employees there were simply told to go home and to contact the unemployment office. Without the money, we’re forced to ponder the true value of our daily labor. Gambling is a huge part of the economy in Las Vegas and gambling addiction is a destructive epidemic among the families (mine included) who reside there. Whether they knew it or not, every person who earned a living down there was profiting off of the evil that happens [on the strip] daily. Without the money, we’re forced to ponder the true value of our daily labor.

Breakdown your work-from-home process, how do you ensure productivity?

This time has caused me to re-think the idea of productivity altogether. The word itself has a strong connotation towards economic productivity, and I’ve come to realize that it’s a mistake to understand it that way exclusively. I remember feeling sad recently, because I was trying to get some music work done and it simply wasn’t happening, when I told my sister, she responded, “productive to whom?” and that made me think.

What’s hidden beneath that need to feel productive is a need to feel important to society, like we’re apart of something greater than ourselves. Also, to many of us, being productive is proof that we have the right to exist. It’s okay to simply “be” and use our time to just rest. My career is only one small facet of who I am…The things that we do to make us feel productive are not always all that productive in reality.

Do you have a go-to mood booster or method to reduce anxiety?

Alcohol (just kidding).  I think that we first need to understand what anxiety is. Think of it as the “check engine” light on your car. It’s asking you to do something — not go in and disconnect the check engine light. In my answer to the question about productivity, my productivity-related anxiety was a signal to myself that I’d been ignoring all these different aspects of who I am to be productive as an artist.

I realized that there is an overwhelming feeling in the air of “every man for himself,” so I placed two baskets outside my front door. One of them I filled up with things I had in excess and left a sign encouraging neighbors to take what they need from it, and the other one I left empty, encouraging them to drop something they may have in excess. Doing this was enough to resolve my need inside to feel productive, and it had nothing to do with “work” or making money.

What’s your self-care routine? Walk us through it.

I think the most important thing is tending to myself as a whole like I’d mentioned before, by acknowledging that I am a son, a brother, a neighbor, etc. and taking action to strengthen those parts of myself because that is a way of taking care of others by taking care of myself.

What would you recommend to anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

Talk to your neighbors. Offer them something that you have in abundance. Check on them to see how they are doing, etc. Let them know that they can rely on you if they need anything. I believe that for artists specifically, we should be creating art that’s challenging for listeners when it needs to be. In times like this, art is put in its true place of value and importance in the world, as the world is experiencing a state of crisis and self-serving art is not enough to deliver people from their extreme worry and panic.

I saw recently Offset tweeted about not being able to find bread anywhere. According to GQ, his jewelry collection alone is worth more than $3 million, yet none of that jewelry could get him the bread he needed. I like to think of this coronavirus as ‘a great equalizer,’ it’s a signal to let go of those excuses for separating and come together.

Tobias Rauscher, Google marketing manager
New York

Tobias Rauscher
Photo courtesy of Tobias Rauscher

Breakdown your work-from-home process, how do you ensure productivity? 

I live in a small studio in New York. Space was never too much of a concern, as I would spend most of my time outside of the apartment. To keep some level of mental division between work and life now, I reconfigure my table every morning, adding a stool with my laptop on top, acting as a provisional standing desk. At the end of the work day, I take the stool down and hide the laptop. After that, I try to stay disconnected. 

I constantly remind myself of my own privilege, thinking about those who are more severely affected and those who play an active role in fighting this epidemic. Keeping perspective is important. 

How do you stay creatively stimulated?

I’m truly inspired by the creativity that goes into memes these days, especially on TikTok. My digital routine also includes my news app. Besides headlines, it gives me a personalized feed around my interests. Certainly spend more time online than I should. Quarantining also made me discover joy in small DIY and home improvement projects — I sanded an old wood box, hung up a painting, reorganized my closet. Some of them are truly minor, but completing them feels oddly satisfying. Lastly, I spend a good amount of time listening to the spoken radio (mostly WNYC). I particularly love getting exposed to topics my curated social feeds wouldn’t, often sending me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole with a whole new perspective. 

What’s your self-care routine? Walk us through it. 

I start the day by making my bed — it gives me the illusion of being organized. My morning routine continues with a basic workout and a healthy breakfast. Eating well seems to positively impact my mood and energy. So does immediately cleaning up after myself. In between work, I find time to sit in my window and find stimulation outside. For dinner, I alternate between pasta (my favorite) and dishes I haven’t tried before, often in video company of someone who’s eating as well. Socializing, even if it’s just digitally, has helped me a great deal to keep my mood up. 

What would you recommend for anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

Treat this period as an opportunity for personal growth — learn something you’ve always wanted to learn, read the book you’ve been procrastinating on, stream a documentary. I started taking online French classes, going deep on philosophy, and painting (all things I previously said to be too busy for).  Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Make use of technology and connect with a friend, someone who’s home alone or write to the person you’ve alway looked up to. Chances are they’re home alone too and excited to hear from you.

Berhana, singer-songwriter

Los Angeles

Berhana
Photo courtesy of Berhana/Harry Israelson

How have you navigated the transition to operating remotely? Has your work been affected by current events?

It’s been alright. i miss being out in the world and seeing people but I’m still able to do a lot of work from home. i have a few shows that might get cancelled but that’s about it.

How do you stay creatively stimulated?

I have people that hold me accountable throughout the day. Watching movies, listening to new music, reading books and just talking with my friends.

Do you have a go-to mood booster or method to reduce anxiety?

I’m still figuring it out lol but making sure I go outside at least once a day has been important for me. I also watch movies with a few of my friends every week. we’re not physically together, but we’ll press play at the same time and talk to each other throughout. Anyway you can feel connected to the people you’re close with is nice.

What’s your self-care routine? Walk us through it.

Wake up kinda early, stretch, work out, shower, make breakfast/coffee and sit on my back porch.

What would you recommend to anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

It’s hard to say because people are going through so much. Recently, I put together a list of what I’ve been meaning to watch/listen to/learn. it’s been nice to look at that when I’m done working or am feeling stuck.

Jordan Samuel Pacitti, professional dancer/founder of Jordan Samuel skincare
Seattle

Photos courtesy of Jordan Samuel Pacitti/Angela Sterling

Breakdown your work-from-home process, how do you ensure productivity?

Being an internal team of two, my business partner Erin and I have always needed to wear many different hats during the day. We have extensive practice in working from home, multi-tasking, and making the most of our time and of all the different time zones we work with. Putting book ends on your day, keeping a schedule and to-do list really helps me to keep on task.

How do you stay creatively stimulated?

Creativity comes from many different things for me — reading, watching TV, playing with other skincare products and even meditating. Keeping my mind clear helps creative thoughts to flow a bit more freely.

What’s your self-care routine? Walk us through it.

It always starts and ends with a great skincare routine every morning and every evening. Without fail. Somewhere in between I make time for exercise, as well as decompressing with my husband over a glass or two of wine, and turning off the news.

What would you recommend for anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

Stay connected if possible. Reach out to friends and family. Participate in positive social media groups. Meditate, and read uplifting books.

Adam Mansuroglu, Men’s Health senior editor
New York

Adam Mansuroglu
Photo courtesy of Adam Mansuroglu

How have you navigated the the transition to operating remotely?

As an editor that primarily works on digital content, the adjustment to working remotely hasn’t been as much of struggle. I tend to be more productive. I’m easily distracted when writing or editing articles, so having more control over my surroundings is a good thing.

First thing I do before opening my laptop is grab my noise-cancelling headphones. To stay focused, I’m a big fan of sound machine apps. White noise to hyper-focus while writing, wind chimes or beach sounds to stay calm when writing frustrating emails, and bird sounds when I wish I was working outside. I’m the type of person who never sits still, so after completing something on my checklist, I’ll give myself a minute to do a minute or two of yoga stretches so I don’t feel like I’ve sat in the same place all day.As the sun begins to set, I’ll end the day by lighting some of my favorite candles (I have about 12 in my home right now). They’re soothing and help me to relax and unwind so that when I’m finally done for the day, I’m already in a more mellow mood. It’s all about clearing your head when everything becomes overwhelming. I once had a boss who told me that even if you eat lunch at your desk, take two laps around the block — your mind needs the break.

Do you have a go-to mood booster or method to reduce anxiety?

When the candles, sound apps, and yoga stretches have all failed to keep me calm, I usually call a friend for 15 minutes. Sometimes completely removing yourself from the situation and having a good laugh can really help to jumpstart your brain or help to remind you that work isn’t everything.Eucalyptus shower bombs can really make that morning bathroom time extra special.I’m never one to rush myself in the morning. With a giant cup of coffee and total silence, I slowly wake up to start my day — it’s the little things. It’s really hard sometimes to shake off the workday, so a face mask, a glass of great whiskey, and some soothing tunes can work like magic to make me feel like a human again after even the most frustrating days.

What would you recommend for anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

Breathe. Whatever you do, just breathe. Find your version of meditation that works for you and never skip out on your “me time” just to get a head start on the day’s tasks. I really feel like my generation was trained to put work first and mental health second—we need to change that. Feeling down? Call a friend for a laugh. Feeling antsy? Put on your favorite song and dance it out. Need to scream? Let it out in a pillow. Don’t bottle up your emotions—let them out, take a moment, and you’ll bounce back. This whole thing isn’t easy, but find what works for you and run with it.

Maro, singer-musician
Salwa

Maro
Photo courtesy of Maro

Has your work been affected by current events?

The airports are closed so I can’t travel to Sweden to finish up my last songs, which is really frustrating. Also it’s more challenging to record covers for my YouTube channel outside of my apartment, due to the policies the government in Kuwait has given.

Since I’m always sitting at home I try to write as many lyrics and melodies as possible. I also just bought a harmonica, since I thought this pandemic is a great chance to learn a new instrument. Also, I try to make content for my platforms that I might not do otherwise if the circumstances were normal. I also ordered cheap studio equipment to learn more about music production.

Do you have a go-to mood booster or method to reduce anxiety?

I actually struggled a lot with anxiety before this pandemic started. So I meditate, which always helped calm my nerves down and I always call my closest friends because they’re funny and it’s important to have that positivity everyday, especially when you’re stuck inside your house. I workout which also helps my mind staying more creative by giving a higher energy level and, I always sleep with meditational music. It just really helps with my mood and attitude.

What would you recommend for anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

Try to take advantage of the free time you have, by learning something new, now is the best time. Definitely sleep well, make sure to workout at least 10 minutes a day to keep your mind sane. Call friends to socialize and just have fun.

Robert Quick, writer
New York

Robert Quick
Photo courtesy of Robert Quick

Has your work been affected by current events?

I think there’s a massive difference between working remotely versus working remotely during a pandemic. A huge amount of autonomy is gone. And my job was terminated due to these current events, so I’m adjusting to a bunch of things right now and still figuring it out. For productivity, I’m all about lists. Think of the five most crucial objectives of the day and get them done. Measure productivity by what you actually accomplish, not by how long you’re at the computer or whatever. If you get everything done by lunchtime and granted your co-workers don’t need you for anything else, you’re set for the day. Go off.

How do you stay creatively stimulated?

I’ve been reading a lot more weird stuff and challenging myself to do something new each day. I just went on my first run in like five years today, it was awful. I’ve been trying to learn a new song on the piano every week. I just taught myself “Sandcastles” by Beyonce. It’s about forgiveness.

Do you have a go-to mood booster or method to reduce anxiety?

Limit your news intake. Part of my (old) job was following the news and staying up to speed, but it’s also necessary to pause and restrain yourself when it becomes too much. These days, it’s way too much. Take a walk by yourself and clear your head. The news will be waiting for you. I also love watching live Celine Dion and Whitney Houston videos.

What’s your self-care routine? Walk us through it.

Try and shower daily. Wash your face. Get some exercise in whether it’s just a walk around the block or 50 push-ups. Check-in with your people. Listen to your body — your needs can change daily and it’s important to respond accordingly.

What would you recommend for anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

I’m absolutely spiraling and probably will continue to do so for a little bit. What’s kept me grounded is leaning into it, just a little, to allow myself to feel the gravity of the circumstances and find a way to process it properly. And despite the new rules of isolating yourself, there’s a tremendous amount of solidarity knowing that you’re not the only one going through it right now. Focus on that. Every time I’m faced with a challenge, I tell myself, “This isn’t the hardest thing you’re going to deal with in your life.” Just for some perspective.