Welcome to our new series of informal chats with creative types! Seeking inspiration and a pop of vibrancy? Then, look no further. Today, we chat to writer, translator and all-round documenter Marlou about how she’s coping during lockdown.
It is nourishing to make sure we have a healthy dose of our favourite things surrounding us – especially now during times of uncertainty – as our own environment can have a major influence on helping to get our creative juices flowing. Marlou regularly documents her days via her Instagram stream and stories (and her newsletter) where she sets a colourful scene filled with ingredients that make up the nice things in life. Ordinary days made special, with inspiring visuals, tales and tips. Marlou has a love for communicating – whether that is visually or in the written word. The main photo above is part of her ‘one photo a day’ project which she is currently working on which will be compiled into a book at the end of the year. We caught up with her to find out more.
Hi! Can you share a bit about yourself?
My name is Marlou, I’m 30 and live in Utrecht, and usually spend a lot of time travelling. I work as a communication officer for an EU funding programme and sometimes work as a translator from Norwegian/Danish to Dutch. In my spare time, I write/compile a newsletter in which I try and spread love for the beauty of ‘ordinary’ life. I really think it’s important not to only search for highlights in days off and holidays – every day is special. Next to daily life, I also enjoy walks, words, long breakfasts, karaoke, mountains, trams, getting (and sending) mail and a whole lot more.
How are you doing at the moment?
I’m doing alright. Of course, I’m scared from time to time and still very much adapting to the situation, but I do like spending lots of time at home which is something I enjoy a lot but never really do. I’m both curious and a little afraid about what will come next, but for me personally things are good and will most likely stay good, so I feel very lucky with that.
What five (or more) words would you use to describe yourself?
Curious, caring, optimistic, very happy to share good (but honest) vibes.
Can you describe your environment? What can you see/what is on your desk?
Right now, I’m in my parents’ B&B, in their garden in Limburg. I can hear the chicken and birds and even the neighbour’s goats, which is exactly what I need. after being ‘stuck’ on my own in Utrecht for 2 months. The city got a bit too crowded and busy for me, so I’m happy to be surrounded by nature for a bit now. I have flowers, tea, water, stamps (cut out to send to my friend’s grandma who collects them) and hand cream on my desk.
What do you find inspiring? What do you like to spend your time doing?
Going for walks (while listening to podcasts), reading books and magazines, writing postcards and letters, cooking. Nowadays, I get inspiration from all the nice things other people do mostly, like chalking the streets to leave nice messages. And podcasts, music, movies.
Do you have a lockdown routine?
On days off, I go for a long walk in the morning and then basically stay inside – write and read and eat and video call friends. I go to bed earlier than usual, but also wake up earlier so that’s perfect. On working days, I go for a walk in the morning too, before starting work. I like to ‘walk to the office’ just as I would if I actually had to go to the office. I try and have book breaks in between work tasks to not stare at the screen too much, go for a take away coffee, walk a day or two a week and also ‘walk home after work’ – which again can be a 30-minute walk in the neighbourhood, sometimes further.
What do you find important at this time? What can you not live without?
The walks! And staying in touch with friends and people I care about – I have sent a lot of postcards, letters and small packages.
What creative projects are you working on?
I have been sending out a (bi-weekly) newsletter for 4 years now, focusing on good things from daily life. In the beginning of the lockdown, I sent it out every Monday to try and help people stay positive. It is back to every second Monday now, but still I constantly work on collecting positive news and inspiration to share. Besides, I have two personal projects on documenting life, which also are still going strong: I take a photo that could be worth sharing every day (since January 2015); and I film a second of my life every day (since January 2018). People have been asking if it’s harder ‘now that you don’t do anything fun’ but, honestly, I have been documenting a lot more these weeks.
Top creative tips?
Take a (Instax) camera for a walk to document what your life/the city looks like right now. I sent a couple of those photos to friends who used to live in Utrecht but moved and/or can’t visit right now, and also a bit of spring to a friend in Estonia who – instead of us with the nice weather – had to deal with snowstorms and rainy days. Another tip is to make a calendar and count down with stickers; so colourful (and, honestly, also quite a reality check on how much faster time goes by than you might think right now).
Any plans for writing?
Next to a couple of letters and postcards, not really. I did start writing more in my journal though and have some sort of story in my head. Not sure if I’d ever manage to (or really would like to) write a book, but who knows.
Top lockdown tips?
Well, go for walks and send a lot of mail. I also recently organised a pub quiz (online) which was great. I had friends from seven countries joining in – also with people I don’t really video call with now but would usually regularly meet/bump into on the street. So nice to see them, too! I chose to do the pub quiz on Jitsi so I would see everyone, and instead of sharing my screen to show a PowerPoint with questions, I just read the question and made them share their answers in their webcam (writing A, B, C, D on papers with a green/red subject for the true/false questions). Of course, it was still me talking a lot, but the interaction was great.
What are you missing/craving?
Having coffee/reading books in cute cafes, (hugging) my friends, my colleagues, going to the movies, and mostly: the feeling of freedom. I have spent a couple of years living in both Norway and Belgium and good friends in both places have had babies in the meantime – not knowing when (and if) I’d be able to go visit them is really sad.
Where would you like to travel to post-lockdown?
Taking trains across the Netherlands (without feeling guilty) really would be amazing. I’d like to go to at least one of the islands and go for day trips to different cities. As for going abroad, I’d mostly just like to visit friends right now. Spend some time in Oslo again, go to Brussels and also visit a friend in Iceland. I was supposed to visit her mid-May, so am hoping to go later this summer.
Do you have a favourite place to visit in the Netherlands?
So many! Of course, the area where my parents live – the Peel and Maas-area in Noord-Limburg – but I also like the south of Limburg a lot, de Veluwe, the islands (Vlieland mostly). As for cities, I really like Amersfoort, Haarlem, Groningen and Rotterdam.
What Dutch tradition do you like to share with non-Dutchies?
Putting stroopwafels on top of your hot drink to make them melt a little – so good!
Thanks so much for the inspiring chat Marlou!