Lockdown Creativity: Overload and Guilt

It’s November, and Lockdown 2 (aka Lockdown2: This Time it’s Ineffectual) has meant that Nottingham Comedy Festival, already compounded by Nottingham being moved into tier 3, is not only cancelled, it is double cancelled as we have all moved into tier 4 now. We have shut that stable door after the horse has bolted, and then gone back to set fire to the door. We’re trying our best to not throw our hands into the air now and exclaim, “What’s the point of anything?”

A lot of friends have somewhat optimistically announced their shows for February’s Leicester Comedy Festival, with that notion in the back of some people’s heads that their shows may have to be streamed online in some way, or just cancelled again when we get to that bridge (don’t set fire to the bridge!), because can you see this being over by February? (Mind, saying that, new vaccine news. Cross fingers, eh!) My group, The Extraordinary Time-Travelling Adventures of Baron Munchausen actually won an award at this year’s festival, and of course we would like to go back and win it again, and we are doing our best to keep our storytelling skills sharp in the meantime, but as adventurous a bunch of companions as we are, we will be bound by the law of the land, or in my character’s case, maritime law, and of course, not bound by any law at all, because she’s a pirate. But you still can’t parley your way out of a pandemic. Take note, Boris!

I daresay, in our little Venn diagrams of social circles, you are noticing more mental health awareness posts among your friends. I know I am. But as I am friends with many comedians and writers, a lot of the stress as we enter second Lockdown seems to be associated with creativity guilt. It probably doesn’t help that the annual guilt-fest Nanowrimo is on us again, in which every year I remember I had meant to join in, but should probably do my tax returns first.

I must admit I am feeling the brunt of creative stress too, and lots of guilt, because it takes so long to do a little bit of work, you worry about the other projects you are letting slide. There are a lot of us taking part in online shows, or producing funny little videos and tik-toks these days, just hoping someone watches and that we are not pouring our creative soul into the void. I have both felt and seen the anxiety that comes with putting something ‘out there’. Plus it seems we have only a slight slowdown in the availability of new content on the mainstream, shiny establishment platforms like Netflix, though these do shine a bit of a halo effect on some of their recent top ten watches with very poor script-editing (I’m looking at you, The Haunting of Bly Manor, or am I? I don’t know, I can’t do the math. I’m British). There are some fab things on YouTube (See the list of things I’ve been on for a start), and although my videos have dodgy production values, I hope you can still see they have heart, soul and very funny bones.

Just when our industry is decimated, a more famous comedian who has been on a not-so mainstream show with me in Lockdown, tweets to the general world: “I’ll buy you TWO coffees if you stop posting your videos.” This is in response to acts using the ko-fi platform to try to earn something from comedy now that this has become a harder task than getting Donald Trump to say, “I admit it, I lost.” Who is that tweet aimed at? Who knows… but like, I say, I have been on a show with her, and definitely shared the video after. And I have just started a ko-fi account. And started posting more videos. It couldn’t be me, couldn’t it? Have I offended my hero of acerbic comedy? Could she not, like the rest of the world, seemingly, have just passed on by? What have I done to upset you, Jo?

No one has bought me a coffee today. And I’ve run out of teabags…

Ha ha, I know it’s not me really. It is a very funny thing to tweet about how absurd it is that this is a recourse to income in the time of the plague. This is the new busking. But having worked very hard on an absolute pig of an edit for our superbly lo-fi Comedians do Top Ten show, I would hope that people will think, oh fab, they’ve done very well with what they have here in a loft in Northampton, they deserve a like, a subscribe, or even a share. That would be payment enough, dear comedy fan.

Or, you could buy me a coffee.

Guilt also plagues me because I am not writing as much fiction these days as I used to, though I do hope my writing group starting up again will spur me on. I have had to call a halt for now to the Super World Unknown anthology, to take some pressure off contributors who are going through a tough enough time without their editor breathing down their necks waiting for their redrafts and promised stories. We’ll pick that back up after Christmas, when the lightening skies, and maybe the vaccine, will give us the shot in the arm we all need.

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