Creativity and COVID-19, A Special Open Mic Project, Day 4. Some thoughts on staying creative during these troubling times from the fabulous Toronto-based suspense author Lisa de Nikolits.

OM: How has this situation impacted you? 

De Nikolits: I’ve been really fortunate, compared to so many people. My day job as Acting Assistant Art Director of Hello! Canada magazine transferred quite seamlessly to work-from-home and at this point, fingers crossed, we’re still in regular production. Things change daily but hopefully, the magazine will stay in production.

 

It really helps to have a work routine and Mondays and Tuesdays are pretty much twelve-hour days at my home office desk, and designing pages is a good escape from the realities out there.

 

As a writer and natural-born introvert (although tests say I’m an introverted extrovert!), I’m super well-equipped to spend time in my own company and really, this situation, in terms of social interaction and daily activities, hasn’t been much different to when I’ve happily taken time off to write a book. I have a self-schedule that I stick with, with regards to exercise and hours that I watch TV or read or work or do housework.

 

Of course, however, the huge difference with the current situation, is the underlying massive stress that the whole world is falling apart but my ethos, when faced with crisis, has always been to work harder and this isn’t any different. So if anything, I am simply working harder!

 

OM: Have you been able to maintain your creativity during all this? 

De Nikolits: I’ve seized this opportunity to do focus on creativity. I have a book scheduled for Fall, The Rage Room, and I’m a third the way through my seventh (or so!) meticulous rewrite of the thing and it’s taking forever! And because I still have my day job, I still have to work on my books at night and on the weekends.

 

I must admit that when the pandemic first started, I was tempted to bury my head in Netflix and say ‘oh well, who on earth can work with all this going on?’ but I immediately chastised myself and thought, ‘no, don’t see it that way, rather seize this opportunity of time and make the most of it.’

 

I have a few writerly projects on the go: Interview With An Author is a series I blog about on Goodreads in which I ask an author six questions and it’s a really fun way to get to know more about the people whose books I admire. I began the initiative in January with the goal of posting every two weeks this year but I’ve moved it up to twice a week, posting on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

 

I so often wonder, when watching war movies, or hearing about people whose lives were irrevocably disrupted by illness or a family emergency or financial difficulties, what the cost was to their creative lives? What screenplays or paintings or books or sporting events were cancelled, never to return? And isn’t that one of the saddest things? To have your dream obliterated by circumstance.

There are writers out there who’ve waited a lifetime to get their books published and that’s why I’m doing more posts of Interview With An Author, to help spread the word about the books.

 

I also have a review site, The Minerva Reader, which I’ve had since 2017 in which I shine a spotlight on unsung heroes in the literary world, all Canadian authors, that’s the only caveat and I’m always reading featured books.

 

OM: Do you have any advice for someone struggling to tear themselves away from the news and back to their creative projects?

De Nikolits: I time myself. I allow myself half an hour to watch the news. That’s it! I also limit myself on social media – Facebook and Instagram are black holes – you go to check in on things and next thing, you’ve lost a few hours! I post a fair bit but I try not to spend too much time checking things out because once I start, I can’t stop! And I always feel guilty for all the posts I haven’t liked or seen or commented on! So it’s best for me to time myself there too – twenty minutes on Facebook, fifteen on Instagram and Twitter.

 

But most importantly, I juggle creative projects because some days you’re more in the mood for one thing than another. I have a list of creative projects on the go and I switch up the order of things depending on the day: a short story I need to write for an anthology, a massive pile of books I want to read and authors I want to read about.

 

But I also set goals and objectives: by OD you will have read this much, posted this much and worked on your book this much. I become very anxious if I don’t stick to my goals, so I do these things because they make me feel better!

 

But I’m not all work! I do yoga and practise the classical guitar.

 

OM: Do you have a new project you are working on, or one that is coming out soon?

De Nikolits: Yes! The Rage Room! It’s scheduled to be published in Fall of this year and I’ve got so much work to do on it. I’ve sent it out for blurbs and have received excellent support (a few posted below) but I want to polish the writing as much as I can. I have a rigorous series of self-edits and I am at the stage of editing on paper and I am simply dreading having to input all the changes and I have to get it all done by the end of May at the latest. At the moment, the pages are a sea of red ink and I’m quite terrified!

 

Here are some tips that help me:

  • Create a work space that you really want to be in. Change up your home office, switch your art around.
  • Listen to some music from your past and remind yourself of the dreams you had long ago. Did you achieve those dreams? Is now the time to try again, if perhaps you lost sight of them?
  • Hang out with your furry friends and chat to them.
  • Keep it clean! I find I can’t feel happy or creative in a mess, so take a day to tidy things up, freshen up the feng shui and keep changing it up.
  • Stand in the sunshine for at least five minutes!
  • Keep connected with other creative folks in the way that works best for you. I generally hate the phone but I love IM or texting. So check in with your peeps!

 

I’d like to add that my husband and I turned to watching disaster movies and here’s a list, in case viewers need an escape! All further suggestions welcome!

 

1 The Poseidon Adventure

2 Dante’s Peak

3 Contagion

4 The Towering Inferno

5 The Day after Tomorrow

6 Twister

7 Airport

8 1917

9 The China Syndrome

10 The Andromeda Strain

11 Marooned

12 The Flight of The Phoenix

13 Outbreak

14 Volcano

15 The Happening

 

Thank you very much for having me as a guest today and I really hope that your readers will find this helpful. And I’d like to add this, for people who are feeling guilty about not doing more – don’t pressure yourself! I always believe that situations affect each person differently and if you’re not being as creative as you’d hoped or dreamed, then don’t fret, do what you have to do to get through this, it’s a very tough time and self-kindness is of paramount importance right now. So take it easy, take good care and stay safe!

 

And in case your readers are interested in picking up an eBook copy of The Occult Persuasion and The Anarchist’s Solution, they can do so at a 50% discount at innana.ca with the coupon code iwd2020. Reviewers on a recent blog tout have commented that this is the perfect escape read at this time!

Rich Ehisen

Rich Ehisen has been a reporter and editor for almost 30 years, and is currently the editor in chief at Capitol Weekly, which covers the California State Capitol in Sacramento. For two decades previous he was the managing editor of the State Net Capitol Journal, a LexisNexis publication that covers state public policy issues and trends nationwide. In that role he was also the producer and host of the SNCJ Deep Dive podcast and the SNCJ Hot Issues webinar series. He is also the producer and moderator of The Open Mic: Writers in Their Own Words, a podcast and YouTube show that features his discussions on writing with crime fiction, mystery and thriller authors.

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