Spring is all about movement: springing forward, and springing up; new life and new beginnings; moving on; growth; and freshness. Even its synonyms are mobile: bounce, hop, bound.
It’s ironic, then, that this year’s spring is defined by stillness.
We are being told to stay put, while the season blooms around us. Despite the lighter days and flowering trees, time seemingly stands at a halt, each day blending into the next. Many of us who aren’t key workers stay immobile on the sofa; others make a bid for an hour of government-sanctioned freedom, once a day, but all within set boundaries.
There’s no going anywhere. In order for our situation itself to move on and change for the better, we need to remain somewhat inactive.
For those of us who are ordinarily continually striving to improve ourselves and develop as people, staying still has other implications. How are we meant to become better people if we do not have the space to breathe, learn and flourish?
Much like the many unfortunate houseplants I manage to kill on a regular basis, we need plenty of space for our roots to expand in order to remain healthy, self-assured, well-rounded people. Restricted room – whether that’s literal, in the form of a tiny, garden-less studio flat, or in the guise of separation from the offices, studios and stages we use to learn and create – limits us, both physically and mentally.
How can we think outside the box when we’ve forgotten what outside the box looks and feels like?
Someone brilliant on Twitter (for there are those with bright ideas among the trolls, Trump supporters and fountains of negativity – you just have to look for them) shared the concept with me that this is ‘not a writer’s retreat’ – a sentiment I remind myself of during my daily bouts of writer’s block or unproductive guilt. This is not really the ideal environment to be creating your best work.
Sure, you may have more time than ever in front of your laptop to put all the thoughts and ideas and stanzas you’ve ever thought of onto pixellated pages; but it’s hard to focus when Existential Dread and his mate, Anxiety, are rapping their unsanitised knuckles on your window.
This is the most number of words I have written in weeks – certainly since lockdown began. It’s not only hard to find the motivation and focus, but it’s also hard to find the words once you drag yourself to your desk.
I am finding it difficult to accept that my mind has not got the space to reach its full potential at the moment; my ideas, much like my physical freedom, are limited. On the days when I do feel I finally have something to add, my body is usually the one feeling the weight of the lockdown.
I am aware that there are already a lot of articles online giving you ‘permission’ to be unproductive right now, to counterbalance the others that encourage you to write your novel, paint your masterpiece, or makeover your garden. I know, then, my words are likely to be absorbed in the noise, but I wanted to speak up and offer some words of reassurance, if you’ll listen.
There is no right way to muddle through this; be as energetic or as lethargic as you like – and as your situation allows (since so many will be ‘homeschooling’, volunteering, caring or still working hard, and saving lives).
Take care of your mental health, whether that looks like a daily run, a daily writing goal, a daily vlog, or just a daily call with someone you love. If being super productive helps you through, do it, and feel proud; but the same thing goes for just getting through each hour and each day.
You are learning to adapt to a very new and very scary situation, and you are acclimatising to your new environment. It’s exhausting, and confusing, but that’s because you are developing – it just may not be in the way you expected when you made your 2020 resolutions.
Stay safe, and stay inside; these are the only two things you ‘need’ on your checklist today.
Growth looks very different this spring; but remember you’re always moving forward, even if it feels like you’re staying completely still.