2020/21 have been historical for all the wrong reasons. Covid-19 has impacted us all – halting life as we know for most of us. For creative people, it has been hard to concentrate on writing with so much turmoil and uncertainty around us. During the fist lockdown here I was unable to work with any of writers in person, but we managed to stay in touch online to some extent. A common complaint I heard from them was the inability to write. There were multiple reasons for this, including stress and exhaustion. I think the pandemic has affected writers in different ways. Some have written more – turning to the written word to help express the thoughts and feelings in their heads. Some have written less – unable to find the time, space, or emotional energy to put pen to paper. For me, my normal writing routine was a welcome distraction and escape from the virus, the lockdown, and the home schooling of my children. I also found I was blogging more than usual, recording my day-today thoughts and feelings on what was happening across the world. For those struggling, I offered the following advice on how to keep writing during unprecedented times and for the most, it seemed to work;
- Meeting online – I was surprised by how keen people were to do this. It seemed like they craved the connection and some part of their old life carrying on, despite the restrictions of lockdown. If you are a writer struggling to put pen to paper now, try finding a writing group that has moved online. It involved a bit of adjustment for us and sometimes the technology lets you down, but overall, we found just talking about writing again, even if it was talking about the lack of writing, was incredibly helpful. We all came away from each meeting feeling energised and understood. We were not alone in our difficulties and sharing our frustrations was cathartic and productive. Often, members of the group came up with advice for others. Sometimes just talking about writing with other writers is all you need to reignite the passion.
- Sign-up to regular writing prompts – you can find these all over the internet, but I would strongly suggest making sure you have a good supply of them if writers block is becoming an issue. Not all of them are going to help but some of them undoubtedly will. Photo prompts can be great – I recently wrote three stories from one photo prompt I found online. It might be that work on your novel has stalled but a random writing prompt will inspire a poem or a piece of flash fiction. Often, the act of writing can shift the gears in our heads and help us claw back enthusiasm for struggling projects.
- Take part in writing challenges – if you can’t find any online try setting your own or see if a writing group is sending any out. These can really vary from word sprints, to themed poetry marathons, to flash fiction competitions – anything that gets you writing.
- Look out for guest posts on blogs – these are always a good idea for getting your name out there and picking up new followers, but I saw a lot more features being offered to writers during lockdown and beyond. Again, it’s a chance to connect with other writers who may be experiencing the same issues as you. I took part in a lockdown themed guest post which ended up becoming a published collaboration. It inspired me to offer slots on my own blog and I am also hoping to get enough responses to put a collection together.
- Write anything! -A list, bullet points, an angry rant, a sad poem, one line, one thought, a doodle, a sketch, anything. You never know what could come from it. Try writing your own writing prompts or sorting through old photos for inspiration. Again, being part of a writing group can really help during times when the writing stops flowing. We often set each other prompts or create characters for each other to write about, or first lines and so on. It can be fun and even if the writing does not go anywhere, it may be all you need to get things moving in the right direction again.
- Pick up a pen – if you usually write at the laptop try picking up a pen and a notepad and seeing what happens. You could pop the notebook in your pocket and take it out for walks, jotting down what you see, hear, feel, and smell, as well as what you think. Perhaps find a spot to people watch and construct characters out of people passing by. Again, you never know what tiny random things can set off a story idea.
- Try a different form – during lockdown I was working on edits for a novel but found myself blogging a lot more than usual and this was very therapeutic for me at the time. For some reason, I can only write poetry when I’m feeling down, so lots have been written during the pandemic. The same goes for short stories – they are not normally my thing, but for some reason I had the urge to write in different forms. I would highly recommend this if you are getting stuck or distracted. If you mostly write short stories, then try a script. If you mostly write novels, have a go at poetry and so on.
- Collaborate – again, I saw a lot of this during lockdown and beyond and I think it’s a great idea. This could involve featuring on other people’s blogs, taking over their social media page or inviting them to take over yours, working on a joint story where you pass it back and forth between you, writing a short film script with a group and so on. Writing can be a lonely occupation at the best of times and during lockdown it is even more so. But there are ways around the loneliness thanks to the Internet and there are many other writers out there feeling the same. Reach out – who knows what exciting project could come of it?
- Give yourself a break – I think this is the most important piece of advice. I have had to remind myself at times that these are unprecedented times. We’ve all been experiencing something we never imagined we would. We have all had our lives disrupted, our incomes affected, and we have all felt afraid for our loved ones. We have all missed normal life and we have all experienced fear, isolation, and boredom like never before. It is perfectly understandable that writing ideas and the urge to write might dry up with all of this going on around us. Don’t beat yourself up if the words won’t flow like usual. Don’t try to force it. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It might simply be your brain and your body telling you to take it easy for now. Hopefully, some of the advice above will help inspire some writing ideas or habits but if not, don’t worry, it is sure to come back in time.