Creativity in the Chaos? Strategies for thriving in uncertain times

Tava O’Halloran was the youngest female to own a collection of award-winning, culture-changing nightclubs in East London. Tava is now an internationally recognised creative director specialising in culture and ideation. Here she explores how to be creative in these uncertain times…

COVID-19 has stopped everything. Closed the world and halted time. A global sweep forcing us to stop.

It touches everyone. Personally, economically and emotionally. As small business operators, freelancers and employees. We are told exactly where to be, how to act. What we can do and what we can’t do. How we can or can’t work. And how we socialise, relax and interact.

What if we decided that despite all of these restrictions we could change our own narrative. What if this time was approached with an alternative view? What if this is a time to grow? A time to create. A time to build dreams.

To make creativity in the chaos?

There are people using this time to sow seeds.

The zoom parties have stopped. Netflix has trapped us in a zombie algorithm. There are grown adults on TikTok, making Reels and scrolling is sucking out your will to live. Yes we needed a distraction from the pandemic but is this how you want to look back on your time in suspension?

Stop to consider if this is the best use of your precious time?

In historical times of economic unrest, war and uncertainty have built cities, life-saving inventions, innovation out of necessity and created art.

We all know that Uber, Air B&B and the gig economy came out of the last global economic crisis, so what is the next movement to rise out of the COVID-19 ashes?

What will be created in the chaos?

It is pain that builds passion. It is uncertainty that can spark inspiration and unrest that makes you question, what if I did this differently?

Some people have used this time in forced suspension, deciding that in fact, this IS the time to make, create and build a life that they want on the other side of the uncertainty.

They are working on a business plan, to open their dream venue, so they are ready for when socialising restrictions ease to welcome customers. They are writing that novel they dreamed of since university. They are starting a drop shipping sportswear store.

They are taking online courses and learning woodburning, making jams, pickling, and upcycling furniture. Teaching themselves to build a website or how to create an augmented reality filter or launch the podcast they have been talking about.

Some dreams take massive financial investment, yes, but others are as simple as pen and paper. Some cost nothing. Your time. Your thoughts. Your dreams of what if?…

These are passion projects that would never have time in a regular schedule filled with social commitments, commuting to work, and regular life plans.

Driven by need, as the secure safe job they had is no longer there or that they have endless hours that need to be filled. The itch to create and make a positive impact in a negative filled world.

So how do you make space for this?

I have never found a problem in making, creating, building on dreams and businesses as this is my job as a creative director. But my personal experiences with the launch of my memoir Queen of Clubs during COVID-19 was devastating.

Before COVID-19 hit, we were travelling through the pre-launch publicity and marketing planning phase nicely. I knew the curb appeal of the memoir was strong; Studio 54, (with a lightly-placed tongue in cheek comparison) meets Eat Pray Love but with cocaine, nightclubs, and literally zero zen.

Acting as a micro-publishing house hiring in experts for a legal read, editing and PR; plans were coming together for a UK book tour, literary festival slots, interviews and a launch party. We were on track for a dynamic, exciting publication period.

As the pandemic grew, in-person events were slowly canceled. The Queen of Clubs launch party planning was put on ice, as were book signings and literary festivals. Auto replies pinged in from journalists on furlough, the penciled-in interviews, features with papers and magazine halting circulations and negotiating coverage stopped. I kept hoping, fingers crossed and watching the news, but the rapid spread of this global pandemic canceled all our elaborate planning.

I knew the world had much bigger agendas to report on and a pandemic to attend to, but it didn’t change the fact I had put my blood sweat and tears into those words: and now tumbleweeds.

I was lost. Frozen in fear that this was all for nothing…

So I pivoted. Deciding to use creativity to overcome the chaos and created the…

Queen of Clubs Virtual Launch: 

The Augmented Reality and multidimensional sensory journey.

Real-World Augmented Reality Launch Party Filter

I created a virtual room that you enter via an Instagram filter portal into the Queen of Clubs launch party, accessible anywhere in the world. A shimmery disco ball filled book signing room and glamourous selfie feature.

Sensory Journey

I curated, designed, and hand-poured a Queen of Clubs candle for readers to burn while reading, recreating the journey.

Book Soundtrack. 

Rich Pack, my Husband, music producer and DJ created a two-part soundtrack to accompany the story.

Book Trailer

We turned the blurb and our old archives of incredible club photography into a blockbuster-style coming soon trailer.

Merchandise Range

There were lots of gorgeous design elements featured in the story. One was an incredible macabre bespoke wallpaper we created by from the original Victorian tiles at the Bathhouse, the wallpaper became the iconic backdrop to wild parties and club photography. Inspiration for our Limited Edition – Queen of Clubs merch collection.

We were able to create a ‘virtual’ launch, moving from in-person events into the ‘new normal’ creative elements and making a genuine connection with readers.

These are the question I get asked daily…

How do you start?

How do you find motivation?

It’s the starting that is the hard part. Once you break down the initial hurdle and get in a good routine, it becomes a habit, and a part of your day that you look forward to and then motivation comes and finds you.

The key is;

You have to show up.

You have to allocate your time as a non-negotiable priority.

And the creativity will come.

What you need to do to start;

  Put down your phone.

Stop mindless scrolling and give yourself a break away from other people’s curated squares. It sucks creativity and is a time warp.

  Set aside one hour a day.

This one hour a day will be the start of your commitment to creating. You will slowly build on this time allocation, but this is a bite-size commitment to allow your passion to grow.

  Mark out your week.

Book your creative time into your week, mark it out daily, so you don’t have an excuse that the end of the day comes and you haven’t worked on your dream.

Look to experts, find your muse.

Who inspires you? Spend your time reading up on your heroes, topics that spark your interest and leaders in your field of passion. Rub shoulders with the best, it’s incredible what you will learn and be inspired.

  Set goals

What would you LIKE to happen? Where do you want this to lead? Having a goal or an outcome gives you a tangible goal to your creativity. It doesn’t have to be commercially or financially driven. It can be setting the goal to finish a piece of art or write 1000 words.

  Create your space

Have your workspace ready, so you can sit down and just start. To pick up exactly where you left off the day before. So you don’t have to set up, unpack, find your tools, chargers or paperwork. Eating into your precious creating time.

This could just be an exercise that results in enriching a part of your life. However, this could also be the beginning of a new and beautiful direction in your life. Either way, it is an opportunity to build a window of positivity into your day and in a world that you can’t control, but you can control one hour a day to build on a dream of ‘what does your future look like’?

Can you build your version of creativity the in chaos?

Queen of Clubs by Tava O’Halloran (£13.99) is available now: Tava holds online workshops and courses in unlocking and commercialising your creativity.