Being home-based during lockdown – and beyond – has been a surprisingly rejuvenating time for me as a writer.

Yes, our team is easily accessible to one another at all times, however, the bulk of my conceptualisation process is now being carried out – and please excuse the pun – in isolation.

This is a daunting and yet liberating experience.

Working alone means you aren’t judging yourself as harshly as you often assume others are.

Ideas are pure and unfiltered – and while this doesn’t guarantee that they are good – it does provide a pool of creativity in which you can choose to float, wade or dive.

Here are a few techniques I have used to “conceptualise in captivity”.

The Power of One (word)

Word association is a tried and trusted method when it comes to brainstorming. A trick I find myself using more often recently is pulling key words from the supplied brief and taking them apart. Break up everything – from definitions, to uses and spelling. One word can lead down several roads and give the working-solo mind an inspiration kickstart. For example, we recently received a brief for a “Freedom Day message with a Lockdown angle”.

After nearly 35 days confined to our homes, I was aware that ‘freedom’ was a touchy subject and a basic message would be scoffed at. How are we free when we aren’t free to leave our homes?

However, it was important for me to get across that this period was just a moment we had to get through and nothing compared with South Africa’s past trials. I eventually settled on copy that spoke to the audience’s sense of nostalgia and the compulsion to do right for the greater good. Here’s how I got there:

The process:

It’s a Pod-send 

Seek inspiration in areas that have absolutely nothing to do with your industry – art, books, music, etc. One of the most effective ways of doing this during lockdown for me, has been creating a library of podcasts. These are largely ‘behind the scenes’ shows, all fairly light content which also provides insight into how these industries inject freshness and a feeling of newness while still putting out successful, quality material.

Take a listen:

Yes, And…?

A well-known improv tool utilised by acting schools and comedians the world over. You’re given a start – a brief. Where you take it is solely reliant on constantly saying “Yes, and…?” then adding whatever comes to mind. The key is to never hesitate or shoot down any idea as ‘wrong’, ‘stupid’ or ‘unrealistic’.

I’ve found that playing with this technique allows my imagination to run free, surprising me with an array of possibilities to explore before I settle on the strongest concept to craft and fine-tune to deliver the message.

A Change of Scenery

Much like going outside and taking a walk around your house can be effective, so too is changing what you write on.

I am a huge promoter of the classic pen and paper duo, however, using different mediums and programmes during lockdown has brought about positive results.

If you’re used to working in Word but feel uninspired and judged by the vast blankness and blinking cursor, move your session to a creatively designed online notepad or even a messenger app such as WhatsApp. You approach writing differently depending on the device you use. Smartphones often feel more relaxed and conversational, so rewriting an idea or line in this space offers clarity and a new perspective.

A whole new… workspace?

Lastly, a tip.

A very basic, but much-needed aspect of the creative process. For most of us, our work and home lives were distinctly defined in a pre COVID-19 existence. Now, there are no boundaries. This makes carving out a space to work essential. Simply put, don’t work where you rest or eat. It makes the work seem stressful and overpowering – making it difficult to walk away from and extinguishing any enjoyment that comes from being creative.

Santham Pillay

Santham Pillay
Logico Creative Solutions