The world is a scary place these days. Not to mention it’s an isolating place. We’re all facing levels of stress, scarcity, and uncertainty (on personal, governmental, and economic levels) that haven’t really been seen since WWII. And yet, we writers want (or need) to continue our work. But writing in a pandemic isn’t easy. Nor is it always the best thing to do. It requires adjustments and patience to succeed in such a world, and a willingness to admit that some things are more important than writing.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you during these trying times, and some thoughts on keeping your health and sanity in check.
You have an emergency plan, right? Now’s the time to deploy that plan and get to work.
Keep a routine. When the kids are home from school, your partner is working from home, and normal activities are all cancelled, it’s easy to lose track of what day it is, much less what time. The best thing you can do is to keep some kind of routine or schedule. Get up at the same time each day. Work out a child care schedule, if necessary, with your partner and stick to it. Factor in activities like chores and exercise and then add in writing time. Figure out how to schedule your day so that you keep it from slipping away and ensure a block of time for your work.
Carve out a space for yourself. When everyone is suddenly home, it’s important for each person to have a little private space. If you can commandeer a room, or even a corner, for yourself, great! If you can’t manage that, tell people that the kitchen table (or couch, or bed, or patio table) is yours for certain hours and you’re not to be disturbed. Having your own space means fewer interruptions and less moving around as other people want to use the various spaces in the home.
Limit the news/social media. Nothing can kill your productivity faster than the newest horrifying headline. Limit your exposure to news and social media to set times of the day. Only engage when you’re finished working for the day, when the scary stuff won’t derail your productivity or creativity. And even then, only take in what’s necessary to know and from confirmed sources. Rumors, conjecture, and worst case projections don’t do your mental health any favors.
Write what you need/want to write. I understand that some of us have to write certain things to appease our clients. But this is a time to write the things you want and need to write, at least as much as you’re able. If you have a burning desire to write funny things to ease your mind, do that. If you want to write post-apocalyptic fiction to work through some what-if scenarios, do it. Now’s the time to do whatever will make your heart sing and ease your mind. That might mean poetry, journaling, more blogging, or working on that project you’ve been back-burnering for “someday.”
Practice self-care. Take care of yourself. Not only so you don’t get sick, but so that you can take care of others, if necessary. Exercise, eat well, get some sleep, seek mental health help if the isolation becomes too much, and just generally take care of yourself. Now’s not the time to engage in practices that could lead to illness or injury, either. You don’t want to end up in the hospital for something that was preventable.
Keep your workload comfortable, if you can. Forget the amount of work you always do, or are accustomed to. Extreme times call for changes. Maybe you need to work less in order to give yourself more time to focus on family needs or self-care. Or maybe you want to work more to take your mind off of things or earn more money. Try to keep your workload at a level that’s comfortable for you, and makes you happy.
Find a way to temper the isolation (if you need to). Look, writers are often some of the best at introverting and isolating. As a group, we tend to relish solitude. But even the best hermits sometimes need some social activity. If you start to feel like you’re going a bit bonkers, try to get together virtually with some friends or family, or engage on message boards. Pick up the phone and call somebody just to chat. There are ways to reach out, even in times of isolation. Use them.
Do the best you can to adjust to a new “normal.” We don’t know when things will be normal again. There’s a possibility that some things will not return to exactly the way they were before. Rather than lamenting what is lost and whining for better days, it can be more helpful to bite the bullet and adjust. Yeah, it’s painful and inconvenient, but it’s the only way to get on with life. So if your writing routine looks completely different than it did a month ago, do your best to adjust. Don’t wait and hope that you’ll get that old routine back. You might or you might not, but if you wait you lose a lot of precious time.
Remember that writing matters. And that it doesn’t. Your work is important. The world needs your stories and ideas more than ever. But at the same time, times like these remind us that work isn’t what really matters. (At least for most of us.) What matters is our health, safety, and sanity, and that of our loved ones and friends. So if the writing isn’t getting done because you’re attending to more pressing matters, so what? Deal with the important things first. The writing will still be there when times are better.
Stay safe and be well, everyone!
(Image by Free-Photos)