Staying Creative When You’re Sick

Life can throw us curve balls sometimes. In a perfect world, we creators would always be capable of making awesome work with no physical limitation, but from time to time we all get sick or injured. Recently, I found myself laid up from a spill from my motorcycle with stitches above my eye and a semi-functioning right side. As I stared at the blank-walled quietude of my AC-cooled bedroom, I wondered how to stay creative when getting up was a task in itself.

Day by day, in an unpredictable sleep cycle, I built my stratagies. Some of them kept me creative, with ideas coming to me faster than I could record them. Others, like playing mobile games at 5:45AM, did not. All in all though, I found success in my experiments. To help anyone else out in my position, I thought I’d share my insights on staying creative even if you’re bedridden.

Get Started/Pick a medium

I love this picture of Frida Kahlo painting her chest cast. After a tragic bus accident, her Doctors immobilized her to prevent further damage. I’m fascinated by the image not only because of the artist’s commitment to continue making, but more so by her practical use of available materials. Now, I didn’t have a plaster canvas like her, just a flimsy mesh sling, but I did have some tools around me. Since I can create in the digital domain using a variety of materials, I chose a laptop and my Samsung Note tablet. I could keep them both on my bed, get a wide array of work done, and with some imaginative positioning could even make a drawing or two. Certainly not as romantic as FK making masterpieces in a hospital, but you have to start somewhere.

Tune Into Some Influences

“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it.”
-Jack London

Now I’ve never read any of London’s books, but this quote always made sense to me. Just as flames need fuel and air to grow, so does creativity feed on new influences. If I’d just sat in bed typing away and sketching without a break, I’d have burned out on day two. We all need the fuel of new words and fresh films and music to keep us going. From them we can generate new creative sparks. While reading Wassily Kandinsky’s book “Concerning The Spiritual in Art”, his descriptions of color value gaveme the rough idea for a new photo series. Watching the strange Raging Bull analogue in musical form Whiplash made me do wild fist pumps. And Eugenia Leon’s song “Esa Fotografia”, with its gorgeous synthesis of voice and sparse poetic imagery made me think of the idea of “haunted” and “haunting” art. Art which we as viewers breathe life and stories into spurred on by the mark of the artist.

Stay Adaptable

“No estoy enferma, estoy rota, pero estoy feliz de estar viva mientras pueda pintar. ”
—Frida Kahlo

The only way to appreciate and communicate with the world is through our bodies. And that sensory connection is highly subjective. With bits of gravel still sticking in my curly hair, and gauze over one eye, I found that association with my own life had changed. When the abilities of your body change, so must your techniques and approaches to making flow differently. I would argue adaptability is the key to creativity. Like a boat cresting the waves that sway it here and there, altering your direction while retaining your original destination is the mark of a creative person.

Do you have any tips for staying creative no matter what? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear them!


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