1. Creative writing
Writing a book is a dream for many, with getting started often the hardest part. With most of us confined to home, this might just be the perfect time to get stuck into writing a story, but what if you need a helping hand or a bit of inspiration before you start? Luckily there are all kinds of online writing courses to help you brush up your skills – but first why not kick off with a fun creative writing exercise? Writing exercises may seem silly as you’re doing them, but you’ll be left with a new perspective on the art of writing – and often a brand new dose of inspiration. You can have a look at some other effective creative writing exercises, here.
Reedsy Learning offers a selection of free online writing courses you can do from the comfort of your home. Taught by experienced authors, these courses are a fun and lightweight way to learn: each morning you get a five-minute lesson delivered to your inbox on a subject of your choosing. With 50+ writing topics including the mechanics of writing dialogue, how to write an irresistible romance, and how to edit your story, the only hard part will be choosing which course to do first.
The Open University also offers a free online creative writing course that’s ideal for beginners. The Start Writing Fiction course covers characters, settings and genre, and is great for those people who’ve always wanted to write but lacked the initial courage to get started.
If you’re a fan of esteemed author Margaret Atwood, you might want to check out her Masterclass course. It’s not the cheapest course around but it’s extraordinarily thorough, and gives you access to 23 video lessons taught by Atwood herself. Covering key components of creative writing like story and plot, structuring your novel, and creating compelling characters, this is a great chance to learn from one of the best authors of our time.
Or if you’re ready to get started, you could read our guide on how to publish a book – which draws from my own experience of getting published.
Whether you’ve always had a flair for the arts or haven’t picked up a brush since school, improving your artistic skills is as rewarding as it is relaxing. Like many creative endeavours, there are plenty of other perks to painting: it can help sharpen fine motor skills, build problem-solving skills, improve memory and concentration, and nurture emotional growth. If that weren’t enough, it can also help relieve stress and is incredibly meditative. Do you need any more reasons to get that easel out?
If you want to paint but aren’t sure where to start, visit YouTube channel WowArt and try their fun daily challenges where no special tools or skills are required: you can make toothbrush paintings, aluminium foil paintings and cotton swab paintings. You’ll need acrylic paint for many challenges, but these can be purchased for little expense online, along with oil paints, watercolours, brushes, and any other equipment you need to develop your skills.
If you want to paint with watercolours, there are two popular free classes on Skillshare: learning to paint watercolour flowers, and a painting with layered washes. Over on YouTube, there are plenty of free videos that will help you master other paint techniques: learn the basics of oil painting with artist Lena Danya, be shown how to mix acrylic paints with Will Kemp Art School, and brush up on your watercolour techniques with Mr. Otter Art Studio.
If you want more comprehensive guidance, have a look at some of the best-selling painting courses on Udemy. The Oil Painting From Beginning To Master course will show you how to paint in layers, mix the perfect colour and add varnish to your finished painting for a glossy look; if abstract is your thing, learn how to paint atmospheric abstract landscapes with acrylics; and if you’re just starting out, the mastering brushstrokes class will help give you the knowledge and confidence to take your painting to the next level.
For more information on how to get started painting, you might want to read our article ‘Learn how to paint’.
Aside from being able to make cosy hats, scarves and jumpers for loved ones (and yourself), needlework has several other powerful benefits. It’s been proven to reduce stress, can help with addiction and potentially prevent memory loss. Anyone can learn to sew or knit; it doesn’t require any special skills or dexterity – just patience and a willingness to learn.
If you’re a beginner, All Free Knitting is a good place to start. Download the beginner’s knitting booklet and familiarise yourself with the resources you need to kick things off, knitting vocabulary, and brief overview of the actual knitting technique and process. Then simply move through the tutorials at your own pace: the classes cover casting on, the knit stitch, binding off, the purl stitch, fixing mistakes, and your first knitting pattern. As the site name suggests, this course is entirely free.
Instructables also has 11 free knitting classes that are very well reviewed. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve never knitted before – these classes will show you how to make a stretchy ribbed scarf, a striped hat, and a pair of mittens. Over on Skillshare, for a small fee you can receive tutorials on how to make specific items: a clutch bag or a slouchy hat. You can even learn to hand crochet a blanket.
Alternatively, Crazy Little Projects offer an excellent free Learn To Sew course which begins with the very basics – how to use a sewing machine, the fabric buying process, and common sewing vocabulary. Individual lessons cover how to sew a straight line, turning and top stitching, adding elastic, how to sew ruffles and insert a zipper, and adding buttonholes and applique. Who knows, you might even come out of lockdown with a whole new wardrobe…
For more information on how to get started on your knitting journey, you might want to read our article ‘Learn how to knit’.
Few things can comfort like the smell of freshly baked bread… and in these unsettling times we all need an extra dose of comfort now and then. Being able to bake your own bread is a great way to save money and keep yourself occupied – and if you have a sweet tooth, being able to knock up cakes, muffins, brownies and macarons whenever you like will be a lifelong investment.
If you’re mostly interested in baking cakes and sweet treats, top cooking website Bon Appétit has a great cake baking YouTube tutorial series. In this five-part video series, pastry chef Claire Saffitz shows you the basics of the baking process, explains the art of cake filling and frosting, shows you how to assemble cakes, and explains everything you need to know about cake decoration.
There are lots of free online bread making tutorials too – YouTube is simply chock full of cooking and baking videos. Depending on what type of bread you want to make, check out some of the following:
- Baking with Paul Hollywood, where the Great British Bake Off judge shows you how to make a white bloomer.
- An easy guide to making simple wholewheat bread
- How to make French bread with Mary’s Test Kitchen
- A quick and general bread making overview from Jamie Oliver.
If you’re serious about developing your bread making skills and want to bake more complex loaves like sourdough, then Udemy has a good selection of artisan bread making courses. These in-depth courses will teach you all about fermentation, hydration and autolysis – technical terms every baker worth their salt should know – as well as how to make crusty and delicious sourdough loaves that will go down a treat.
Bread Ahead Bakery and School are also currently doing live Instagram classes throughout the lockdown period, where you can learn to make mouthwatering treats like bagels, brownies and shortbread. Simply head over to their Instagram page everyday at 2pm and watch the live video.
If you want more inspiration – or your mouth isn’t watering already! – then check out our 12 best baking recipes you can knock up in your kitchen.
If you want to improve your drawing and sketching skills, head over to Drawspace, where there are lessons for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels. Free drawing courses that are guided include Getting Started with Drawing, Traditional Drawing (a five week course), and Drawing People (a three week course). Drawspace also has over 500+ self-directed drawing lessons which are ideal for people who prefer to take their own route and set their own goals.
For more niche free drawing courses, Skillshare have some great ones: the Introduction to Hand-Drawn Animation is ideal for anyone with an interest in animation art, Digital Drawing Workout will interest anyone who prefers to get creative on a screen, and Improve Your Drawing Accuracy is perfect for people looking to refine their technique.
For something different – or to add something unique to your CV – have a look at the Skillshare Visual Thinking course, which is all about drawing data to communicate ideas. This type of functional drawing can help you communicate ideas faster, better and stronger, and is ideal for anyone who wants to share stories in a visual way, communicate and collaborate faster, or add an extra something to a pitch. Even better, it’s totally free.
If you’re willing to pay to advance your skills, the Ultimate Drawing Course promises to take you from beginner to advanced. You’ll learn to draw perspective, realistic light and shadow, and the human face and figure, and by the end of course will understand the fundamentals of drawing art. All you need is paper, a pencil, eraser and ruler…and of course, a good amount of motivation.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to start drawing, you might want to read our article ‘Learn to draw‘.
Whether you’re a photography rookie or consider yourself a bit of a natural, there’s never been a better time to dust off that old camera and get snapping. Udemy has a range of free photography courses that are suited to all abilities. Their bitesize learning videos are especially useful; watch tutorials on exposure and aperture, learn about depth of field, manual mode and long exposure, and find out what ‘must have’ gear you need if you want to take your photography to the next level.
Another decent free course is Alison’s Introduction to Digital Photography. In under three hours this course introduces you to the most important functions of digital photography. You’ll learn how to get the best out of your digital camera and how to take the right photo for every occasion. If you have no idea what the functions of your digital camera actually do, this course will set you straight.
If you want to learn from one of the best, world renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz has her own photography masterclass you can access for a fee. Over the course of 15 video lessons you can study topics including portrait photography, working with light, studio vs. location, and the technical side of photography. If you’ve ever wanted to take professional looking portraits of your friends and family, this might be the course for you.
For those who want to take their photography even further, why not check out some of the best paid online courses? Whatever type of photography you’re into, Udemy probably has a course that’ll interest you: choose from topics as diverse as Video Production Bootcamp, Night Photography, How to be a Professional Outdoor and Nature Photographer, and the Art of Black & White Photography.
Even if you only use your phone to take photos, that doesn’t mean you can’t seriously improve your skills during lockdown. The iPhone Photography course will show you how to replicate professional digital photography on your phone, how to utilise shot composition, how to optimise iPhone settings to take the best pictures, and how to edit your final product.
We’ve also pulled together a more detailed guide on how to get started with photography if you’re interested in finding out more.
It’s never too late to hone your cooking skills – and there’s never been a better time to do it. Whether you’re already a dab hand in the kitchen or struggle to boil an egg, cooking is one of those skills that needs very little investment. Whatever your taste preferences, budget or diet, there are dozens of ways you can improve your cooking skills at home.
The most simple method is, of course, to learn from a cookbook – just as we’ve done for hundreds of years. However, if you want a bit more practical advice, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the number of free videos at your disposal. Skillshare has some great ones; brush up your chopping skills with their free knife skills video tutorial, learn to make perfect thin crust pizza, or make use of all this extra time and learn the secrets of slow-cooking.
If you want to learn from the pros and are happy to pay, Gordon Ramsay’s Cooking Masterclass will show you how to cook 13 restaurant-inspired dishes. Over eight different videos you’ll learn how to make several delectable appetisers, mains and desserts – perfect for all those dinner parties you can host when lockdown is over.
Fans of pasta should head over to Nonna Live to take part in virtual cooking classes with Nonna Nerina, an 84-year-old Italian Grandmother. During these live two-hour cooking classes you’ll learn to make classic Italian dishes like lasagne, ravioli, fettuccine and gnocchi, as well as which wines to pair each dish with.
To further develop your cooking skills, check out Udemy’s enormous range of top-rated cooking courses: from Asian fusion to Moroccan, and wok cooking to simple sandwich making, there’s a course for every palate, budget and ability here. If you’re worried about your waistline due to all this sitting around, the Eat Real Food cooking course might be for you; with on-demand videos and plenty of downloadable resources, this course will show you how easy (and delicious) a wholefood, plant-based diet can be, and how eating vegan food can aid health, weight and wellbeing.
For those of you looking for some new recipes to try out, you can visit our food and drink section of the site here.
Just like art, music can take your mind off your troubles and help lift your mood. It’s never too late to learn a musical instrument, whether it’s the piano or guitar – or even if you want to improve your singing voice. There are thousands of musical tutorials on YouTube, from vocal warmup exercises to learning the basics of piano playing. From drums to cello to violin, there are too many free online tutorials on the internet to even try to list, but you can find 21 of the best here.
The BBC also has a good collection of resources and courses if you want to learn music online. Check out BBC Sing for a step-by-step guide on learning to sing, which covers breathing and warm up exercises and useful advice on how to improve your tone. You can get free online guitar lessons with audio, videos and text music resources over on Justin Guitar, and learn to read music at DataDragon – to name just a few of sites on the BBC’s helpful resource list.
Of course, while learning to play a musical instrument is absolutely something you can do yourself, many people benefit from a teacher. Yousician combines teaching with award-winning technology to give you instant feedback while you learn to sing or play the guitar, bass, ukulele or piano. Signing up gives you access to more than 1,500 popular songs, lessons and exercises across multiple music genres, and the huge video library covers all abilities – from total beginner to advanced. It isn’t free, but you can try it out for free for seven days to see if it’s for you.
Over on imusic-school you can learn to play 12 instruments including the harmonica, flute, drums and clarinet, and will be paired with a top teacher to guide you through the process. Again, signing up isn’t free but it gives you unlimited access to all lessons and instruments, wherever and whenever you want. You can learn at your own pace, and with expert teachers at your service, you know you’re in good hands.
9. Learn a language
Travel might be something we can only dream of right now – but that isn’t stopping many of us thinking about the trips we want to take when all this is over. Learning a language has many benefits, and discovering new cultures and being able to share stories with people in other countries are just the obvious ones. Language learning also helps develop cognitive skills like mental flexibility, multitasking, listening and problem-solving – and can significantly improve your job prospects too. But without going to a class, how can you pick up an entirely new language?
If you have a smartphone, you could try downloading Duolingo, a free language app where you can learn more than 30 languages – including Latin, for the history buffs among us. You can spend as little as 10 minutes a day practicing your speaking, listening, reading and writing skills, and these bite-size lessons are seriously effective; you’ll be surprised at how quickly you progress. Lessons are personalised and fun – you can race against the clock and earn points for each correct answer – and you might find yourself becoming somewhat addicted.
For something more in-depth, why not consider taking a virtual language class with italki? Choose from 130 languages and over 10,000 teachers to enjoy one-on-one lessons tailored to your goals and interests. Every teacher has their own price, by the hour – so it suits all budgets, and you only ever pay for the lessons you actually take. Because you only take lessons at a time that works for you, it’s a super flexible way to learn a language, and perfect if you’re committed to learning seriously.
We’ve pulled together a more in-depth read on the benefits of learning a new language which also contains further suggestions on how to start out – both during and after lockdown.
A final thought…
This is an unsettling time, but being at home can also bring about new opportunities. Pre-lockdown, most of us have lamented how busy we are, or wished we had more time on our hands so we could finally take up baking or learn to use that camera. It’s true that developing skills takes effort, patience and motivation, but you’ll be able to enjoy the rewards and results long after lockdown is over. Plus, impressing friends, family and your work colleagues with your new skills is just another thing to look forward to.
If you’re keen to learn, but haven’t found something you like above – then you could try heading over to the courses section of our website. There’s currently 50,000 courses to choose from with a mix of free and paid for learning opportunities.
Have you taken up a new hobby during lockdown, or have you made anything creative? We’d love to see photos of what you’ve been up to! Please send images of your creations to [email protected] or leave a comment below.