Wednesday 1st April 2020

Local writer, Mary Lee-Slade, discusses the benefits of creativity during the Covid-19 pandemic

As I write this, I’m currently on day 14 of self-isolation. My husband falls into the ‘at risk’ category and we decided earlier than most that it was vital to protect ourselves from the dreaded virus by staying at home.

Hubby and I have been homeworkers for many years, so at first it didn’t feel like a major adjustment. However, after just a few days we began to notice the loss of freedom that we had previously taken for granted. The smallest things – the ability to pop to the shop, pick up our niece from school or go to the beauty salon, were suddenly off limits and my stress levels started to rocket. I realised I had to replace the things I was missing with something else; something that would improve my mindfulness and give me a sense of purpose during lockdown.

I’m a writer by trade, but I also class it as my hobby and I’m a big believer in the fact that creativity soothes the soul. Poetry is my form of choice and in crafting a sonnet or drafting a quirky little rhyme, I soon found the solace for which I was searching.

But I didn’t stop there. I dug out my watercolours, threw on my gardening gloves and picked up my camera to photograph the arrival of Spring. Through practising these creative mediums, I realised that whilst most of the world as we know it has changed, the behaviour of nature continues just as it always has and I found something distinctly reassuring about that.

Just before Covid-19 hit the UK, I was in the process of launching a new business called Pendle & Paper Writing Holidays. The aim was to entice people to our region to showcase our wealth of literary heritage, culture and beautiful scenery. We were set to host writing workshops designed to encourage our guests to use exploration of the Ribble Valley and surrounding areas as inspiration in their writing.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has put this plan on hold for a while, but I’ve been using the business’s Instagram and Facebook accounts to promote creativity during the crisis, primarily by asking followers to upload photos of their work and include the hashtag #selfisolationcreation. In sharing our work, we’ve also been inspiring one another and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some incredible talents. From pen and ink pictures to Mother’s Day poetry, hand-forged pottery to cake baking competitions. So many people of all ages and from so many different walks of life have been using arts, crafts and hobbies to keep themselves calm during these uncertain times.

My next goal is to get the kids involved. I’ve prepared a poetry activity sheet to assist parents with home-schooling their children and I’m really looking forward to sharing some of their creations on social media. I recently read that Shakespeare likely wrote King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra whilst in quarantine for a plague outbreak, so who knows, we may just uncover the next Bard!

In all seriousness, perhaps one positive to come out of the coronavirus pandemic is the fact that it has given us time to sit back and assess the things that truly make us happy. Yes, fancy cars, exotic holidays, shopping splurges and fine dining are a real treat (and oh, do I miss them!). But a couple of hours spent nurturing your mind with creativity almost always offers a welcome time-out from the hubbub of the daily grind.

Trust me, it’s true that contentment can be found in the stroke of a brush, the click-clack of knitting needles, the rhythm of the spoken word and the scent of freshly baked bread.

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