Artists in residences, left to right: Nicki Morley, Scott Bennett, Fran Dorricott, Rosie Goodwin

No public appearances, no live audiences and, in some cases, no income: what does it mean to be ‘creative’ for a living when you are stuck home alone? In the first of two features, CBJMagazine writers talk to musicians, authors and comedians about keeping the creative flame burning and staying mentally healthy in difficult times

Scott Bennett, comedian

When all his scheduled gigs were cancelled, comedian Scott Bennett lost both his personal passion and his livelihood.

“As soon as Boris made the lockdown announcement, my world pretty much fell apart in 25 minutes,” says the 40-year-old father of two who has last all of his income for the foreseeable future.

Instead of losing hope, Bennett wanted to spread joy to others by live-streaming a weekly stand-up show from his shed in Beeston.

“I just wanted to continue doing what I love and not let the isolation consume me. As it’s weekly, it also gives me something to work towards,” he adds.

The first episode of Stand-up from the Shed reached 25,000 people and he says it has definitely allowed him to discover a new audience.

He has no idea what the comedy industry will look like when isolation is over but hopes people will have a greater appreciation for the creative arts and performers.

His advice to others in the same situation is to concentrate on your craft and to keep busy. “Any projects that you have talked yourself out of, now is the time to do it. We’ve found ourselves with no purpose so use this time to find your focus.”

Rosie Goodwin, novelist

Author Rosie Goodwin, 68 from Nuneaton, has been encouraging people to read during lockdown by reducing the prices of her novels on Amazon Kindle.

“As soon as this lockdown was put in place, I knew I wanted to do something for my readers,” she says. “In a time of great fear, I wanted to inject a little cheer and offer some escapism.”

Goodwin’s efforts have helped many readers across the world and the tremendous amount of new downloads since lockdown began have put her 2020 release A Time To Say Goodbye in the top 10 on the platform.

“The reception has been overwhelming,” she says. “During such an uncertain time, it is important for me to lift people’s spirits. In turn, it has lifted mine and is encouraging me to keep writing as usual.

“I have also seen many readers interacting online and discussing my books. It is great to see that, even though we are social distancing, we have a big community who has such a passion for reading.”

Fran Dorricott, YA writer

Since lockdown, Crime and Young Adult (YA) author Fran Dorricott from Derby has had to rethink her writing routine so it benefits her wellbeing.

“There’s so much emotional uncertainty right now that it can be hard to focus, so I’ve moved away from quantifiable productivity-focused goals towards softer goals,” says Dorricott.

“We may have deadlines to meet and goals to achieve, but, where possible, I believe it’s most important to be kind to ourselves.”

Though Dorricott describes herself as “notoriously nocturnal”, she made the decision to stop her work before dinner so she can spend the evening doing something she enjoys.

“Now, more than ever, I need time before sleeping to unwind, take stock, and scrub social media from my brain. If I say I’m done at six, then I’m done. No more checking emails or worrying about work-related social media.”

The 28-year-old writer also says she’s been more forgiving of herself when she’s unable to face writing and uses the time to read instead.

She suggests other creatives also use the evenings to do something emotionally or creatively fulfilling too.

“Even in these uncertain times, a shower, a bubble bath or a good walk – if you’re able to do so safely – can do wonders to reset your brain.”

Nicki Morley, actor/writer

Writer and actor Nicki Morley currently has a lot of free time as the bar she worked at in Nottingham has closed and she has been using this time to work on her modern adaption of the Greek myth Medusa.

“It’s nice to have the opportunity and the time to get some writing done and I’m finding moments where I feel really motivated,” Morley says.

The 23-year-old has also managed to interact more with her creative friends and has received feedback on her play.

As well as script-writing, Morley has taken up a few other projects to fuel her creativity, making body positive art and greetings cards that she is thinking about selling and promoting on her Instagram.

However, she has also taken the time to recognise her mental health in this situation and tries to keep her extra free time a positive experience. “I’m trying not to put pressure on myself to be productive all the time and be mindful of the stress that goes along with this whole situation.”

When she finds she struggles to concentrate on writing she steps back for the day and focuses on things that make her feel good instead, whether that’s Animal Crossing or baking.

“It’s very easy to get sucked into hustle culture and forget to look after ourselves, we’ve got to get the balance right.”

Contributors: Jacob Chamberlain, Polly Harrison, Shannon Mountford, Chloe Weaver