The Google is full of phrases like "Encourage new habits", "Using this time to focus on your creative ambitions", "Music is a great comfort, support, escape and creative outlet for us all", "COVID-19 is a real opportunity for musicians".
Before I go on, let me say that I am painfully aware that family and friends are the most important things in these strange and frightening times and my heart bleeds for those I know and those I don't who have lost loved ones to this hideous disease. I also have the utmost respect for all key workers and those keeping our world turning and recognise that the challenges of remaining creative are very well down the list of important things in the world at present.
I am actually still working full time in my teaching job, full time and more to be honest. It turns out that delivering meaningful lessons to Sixth Form Performing Arts and Music students at a time when they can't sing, play, dance, act and be together (with virtually no advance warning) is quite time consuming, if you want to do it properly and care about their well-being (which I always do.) I am on Easter Holiday at the moment. It's actually nice to have some time at home (!) even though we should have been setting off on a cruise of the Aegean islands and Istanbul with my 82 year old Mum (Happy Birthday Mum! We so don't make a habit of this, it was to be a real treat.)
So yes, it's great to have time to actually compose! Only it's not that straightforward.
Currently, I am working from the Music Room (aka the excellent converted garage, my own personal Aladdin's Cave of strange instruments, technology and music trivia), my wonderful husband is trying to house rough sleepers remotely from the shed where my eldest son started living when we ran out of bedrooms and my middle son is trying to produce his (excellent) Drum'n'Bass from the spare bedroom as his Uni course has effectively stopped with little further information forthcoming. His Dissertation is in lock-down in the studios and all his international summer festival DJ bookings have been cancelled. Living back with Mum and Dad was definitely not part of his plan (although I am secretly quite pleased.) The dogs (and dare I say chickens?) are thrilled to have three humans home all day every day.
So, to return to my point, "Encourage new habits" is certainly an inevitability at the moment for all of us. We are all having to find ways to adapt to this strange new reality. Some are obviously difficult, I say again my heart absolutely goes out to those who are dealing with the coal face of this disease, both workers and families. but for most of us we are struggling with loss of freedom, fear of the virus, lack of face to face human contact and completely empty diaries. I am (as a natural optimist) finding some positives, partly because Mum wants me to, "Tell her something nice!" every day. I am enjoying actually being at home, spending time with my son, walking the dogs. I am seeing potential in Zoom meetings for my family when we are fundamentally scattered to the four winds. Would we have thought of doing a Zoom Meeting for Mum's birthday or a family meeting with my four boys in any other circumstances? Probably not, but I hope it is something that will become a part of our family life, as well as (obviously) real family gatherings rather than just virtual ones.
"Using this time to focus on your creative ambitions" is more difficult. I am still very focused on my creative ambitions...always, it's basically what makes me tick. But creative? Not usually a problem...but not so easy at present. I am still writing. I've been writing music since I was seven (seriously), but in the present circumstances, with premieres and performances cancelled for the foreseeable future, no immediate deadlines and very limited physical interaction with other musicians it is more of a challenge than I would have imagined. Is there any point writing that piece if you know it may never be performed? Never actually be given life? I guess I am finding that temporarily my creative ambitions have changed. I am revisiting and revising earlier works (sometimes a really nice surprise!), re-crafting rather than creating new work but balancing this with writing new pieces with a specific and real purpose at this time. I am taking control of all the admin that I never have time to do usually....and let me tell you the admin as a composer frequently takes as much and more time than actually writing the music! I am updating my website and researching contemporary opera, The Mabinogion and Gwenllian, the twelfth century Welsh Warrior Princess...can you see where this is going? Actually I thought it was going towards three nights in October but now I'm not quite so sure....see the problem?
"COVID-19 is a real opportunity for musicians". I am all for positive thinking but it's not a great time for musicians is it? Or anyone really. Talk about new opportunities to the musicians (like my son) who have seen all their bookings for the foreseeable future vanish. As one musician friend pointed out, even those that have been re-booked and re-scheduled are still basically work lost....no musician can actually perform in two places at once. However, what is inspiring is how musicians have gone, "OK, how do we make the best of this?" I am loving seeing the house concerts, the pieces posted online, the folk festivals happening virtually, the generous streaming of opera, theatre and musicals that is now a part of this brave new world but I can't quite do that myself, not yet anyway.
So in summary, for me and I can only really speak for myself, the headlines are;
In conclusion, yes this is the most difficult time any of us can remember. Mum says in some ways it's actually worse than the War, because, "You can't see the enemy and at least you could talk to people". However as musicians we are lucky because it is true, "Music is a great comfort, support, escape and creative outlet for us all". Whilst being overtly creative may not be an option right now I wonder if there are things we will ultimately be able to take from this darkest of times that make us more creative and more connected than ever before when this is all over.