Next up in our Stay At Home With… series (hop onto our previous feature here), Andrea catches up with the newlyweds of now *wink*, Benjamin Kheng and Naomi Yeo. From navigating (just) married life to the perils of languishing, Ben and Naomi get candid about what this abnormal period has been like for creatives… And what keeps them creating!

How’s married life?

Benjamin: Bye! I’m kidding. I think our married life has been very easy. Of course, we don’t have kids yet and we just got married and we’re on locked down. So we get to spend a lot of time together, getting to know each other even more. It hasn’t really changed much, has it? Because we’ve been spending a lot of time together during lockdown and getting to know each other better — surprisingly we’ve cohabited really well. 

Naomi: I wouldn’t say it’s easier, I would say it’s peaceful. It’s definitely different from dating as you are living with each other. Even during Circuit Breaker, we got to live together and see each other’s habits.

The magical thing is that you get to live with your best friend.

What are some of your stay at home essentials?

Benjamin: PS5, that is my one essential. I’m a big kid!

Naomi: Definitely the PS5, we can’t let it go for a while. His other essential (that he got over the past week) is the Oculus. The Oculus is an all-in-one gaming system built for virtual reality and you can play it almost anywhere. Put on the VR headset and controllers it will set up this playstation for you. It also tracks your movement as you go so you really do feel like you’re part of the game!

Where in the house do you guys work most optimally?

Naomi: For me, it’s the living room and we have a studio space for Ben where he can work on his music. Sometimes, when I need to do voiceovers and clients are not comfortable with going to a physical place then we will just patch it through [the living room] too. I’ve realised the beauty of having a little studio space because it allows you to focus and there are less distractions. 

Benjamin: When we first moved, the acoustics were bad and [our space] wasn’t sound treated. Naomi had been doing voiceovers for over a year and clients have to come quite often to produce the tracks. We had some curtains and rugs — but there was no sound-proofing at the start — so I had to put a blanket over her! People who record sounds at home find it very comfy with all the rugs… But there is also so much lint everywhere! You just spend half the day vacuuming!

For me, I need to be in a good place to create. I usually pace around the house, or go for a swim or a run. Usually, I would do a little bit of thinking and writing there, then bring it back home. 

Naomi: When it comes to creative work or music, we can’t stay in one place for too long. We need to move and do something. But sometimes, it’s good to have a permanent space so that when you finally have an idea, you’re able to expel the energy and just put it into something useful.

Speaking of inspiration, where do you find inspiration from?

Naomi: Pinterest? I think a lot of people try to read these days, I used to be an avid reader too. But my lifestyle has changed so much, that it’s so hard to open up a book and stay in one place for hours. So I’ve channelled that distraction into shows or documentaries just to keep my mind active. And I have conversations with friends so we can challenge and stimulate each other with different perspectives. 

Benjamin: Just from my very bored brain. To be honest, I have spoken to a lot of other creatives as well and there it’s definitely a struggle in this period. You feel this sense of stasis — I’m sure everyone feels it. It’s a stressful time for creatives. For many, they don’t feel like they can be creative right now. There are so many things you can do like watching Netflix, talking to friends etc. but it is still a very isolating period. So you have to force yourself to be in uncomfortable situations, since it’s very easy to be sedentary and make that a habit. 

Setting a goal for today and organising your thoughts by creating perimeters helps with creativity. For example, you say ‘I’m just going to sit on the couch and just do nothing’. Then you fall into that rut and it’s over. 

Naomi: It’s not like you will get inspiration everyday. I think being real about it kind of helps you to move forward. Sometimes, inspiration is not easy to find and on occasions where you get it, it’s great to journal. I agree with what Ben said. There’s this new word going around, ‘languishing’? 

The New York Times actually published an article on ‘languishing’ and how many people have been feeling it. It’s not that you are not working, or that you’re necessarily in a slump — but you feel like life is moving along and you are just floating by. You don’t necessarily feel anything for it. [The article] did highlight this as food for thought, knowing that people who are languishing now might be the people who suffer from mental health issues when they get older.

What are some of your favourite activities to do together at home?

Naomi: My favourite activity is having dinner at the end of the day, turning on Netflix and watching shows together. 

Benjamin: We finally found the kind of shows we like to watch together. It’s tough because I have my kind of shows and she has her kind of shows. But we did find out what we both like to watch together… It sounds terribly lame but it’s sports shows. ‘Ultimate Beastmaster’, or similar shows that have a physical element to them.  

Do you ever face creative block or burnout? Could you elaborate on that more?

Benjamin: We both will feel it at different times and while we are in the same industry, our work outputs are quite different. We go through these lulls, but so far we have been experiencing it our own way. Naomi might feel crappy one day and the next day, I’ll be like meh. We always try to remind ourselves that we’ve played the long game. We’re not trying to revive a career that lasts for a year and set ourselves up in the future.

There are going to be periods like this where you feel a bit dry. It’s not because of your own efforts, but that more work isn’t coming in, or other stimulus from outside, for that matter. The important thing is to know when to rest and when to sow your seeds. It could be as simple as taking some time off and taking it easy. This period has given us the opportunity to work on ourselves and our health. We are exercising a lot more and I’ve been trying to eat clean. It’s really not easy. A lot of my friends call me up and tell me they don’t want do anything today, that they don’t have any motivation.

We’re really blessed too, as our work is in our own hands and we are not bound to a clock or desk. We get to decide our own pace. Although it’s definitely also hard when have that authority (to decide), so it helps when you have someone keeping you on track. Asking each other: ‘What are you doing today?’ or “What’s your day going to be like?’ so you are accountable to each other in that sense.

Naomi: I have realised that you can have an extra life outside of work. Most of the time, creative work is also tied to things that are more personal to you. At the end of the day, it’s all about adding on to that image or adding on to this idea of what a brand wants or a certain outlook you want in your work or life. For creatives, it eats you up when you don’t get there. This is the reason why I started yoga about 4 – 5 years ago. I realised that I needed to find a different side to me, so I don’t have to feel this over-attachment to the other things I’ve already done in my life. 

While life isn’t two-dimensional anyway, it’s three-dimensional. If people are able to give in to themselves and say “Hey, let’s try a different thing today!’ or ‘Let’s take a new perspective and be uncomfortable with it.’…the breakthrough is quite refreshing.

How do you stay inspired during this lull? Stay tuned to more features from our “Stay At Home With…” series for a peek at how creatives around Singapore are living it up (and staying safe) at home.






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