Monday, 14 September 2020

Tips for Writers During the Pandemic by Lynne Benton


Going through my past blogs, searching for inspiration for this month’s blog, I found one I wrote over a year ago called “Tips for Writers”.  Several fellow-writers at a writers’ retreat I’d recently attended had put forward tips they found useful, and most of them are still valid.  However, in the current difficult circumstances I felt some may need a little modification.    

Here is the new version for 2020:

1 Set yourself achievable goals.
This may not be quite as easy as it once was.  Okay, for the moment the children may be back at school, and your partner may be back at work, but there is every chance that things may change again very quickly.  (Indeed, some things have already changed since yesterday when I wrote the first draft of this blog!)  Then you may find yourself once again having to help/teach/work around your children who have been sent home from school for an indefinite period because one in their bubble has the virus. You may also have a partner who has suddenly been sent home from work for the same reason, and who may require your empathy in either raging with or soothing him/her.  And all of them will need constant feeding!  So what may once have felt like an achievable goal, such as finishing your current book in x weeks, could take you a great deal longer.

2 Walking is great for sorting things in your head. 
Yes, it still is, if you can find the time to get out of the house.  Here I think people with dogs have a great advantage – everyone accepts that the dog will always need walking, no matter what else is going on in your life and your family’s life!  Without that necessity it can be difficult to make time in your day, and easy to make excuses for not going out.  Even though you know it would do you good!

3 Avoid Social Media until after you have done your work for the day! 
It depends what you mean by Social Media.  Facebook and emails could be important/urgent, so I would glance at them first, though replying can usually wait till after I’ve done my work for the day.  I don’t do Twitter, but I gather from people who do that it is full of people directing their bile against anyone who disagrees with them, and other people (or maybe the same ones?) coming up with weird conspiracy theories.  (Not to mention a certain President who glories in posting incendiary tweets on a regular basis!) So I would avoid Twitter at all costs.  To that I would also add avoiding following the news until after you’ve done your work – hearing about the latest crackpot idea someone has come up with can make you shout at the television and put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day.  Save it all till later, and then shout away! 

4 Keep fan letters to remind yourself how much people enjoy(ed) your work. 
Excellent idea!  Remind yourself that you can still do it, in spite of current limitations.

5 Collect inspiring things around you. 
Yes, of course.  As long as they are thoroughly sanitised in case you dare to pick them up!

6 Eat plenty of chocolate!!!  

YES!!!  That hasn’t changed!  I’d even given it up for the good of my waistline, but the Pandemic put paid to that plan – I felt I needed something to cheer me up, and I’m now thoroughly hooked again!

7 Don’t beat yourself up about things you can’t change…
…like Covid19 and all the restrictions about seeing your families, social distancing etc.  You can’t beat anyone else up, either, (I'm thinking certain politicians here, not your nearest and dearest!) so maybe find another useful outlet for your frustrations.  Making bread is a very therapeutic exercise, with the added benefit of providing you with something good to eat!  And one friend of mine, who lived on a farm, used to take a broom and beat up a bale of hay whenever she felt angry, and said it did her a lot of good!

8 Keep a work diary to show how much you’ve actually achieved every week.  
Yes, this is still a good idea, even if it shows how much less you’ve actually done than what you’d hoped to do.  Bear in mind the restrictions you’re living under at the moment and forgive yourself!

9 Fake enthusiasm, even if you don’t feel it. 
Yes, if you can, though you may offend some people who are having a hard time, or find others giving you strange looks.

10 Keep going, no matter how slowly.
Yes, even though you may find it going even more slowly than you’d imagined.  Many writer friends have said that although they had initially looked upon Lockdown as an opportunity to do lots of writing, they found that unaccountably they’d done less than usual.  There are too many other things taking up your headspace.  So don’t worry if your book is taking a long time to write, you are not alone!

11 Writing can help you through difficult times, eg divorce, bereavement etc.
This is a really useful tip to bear in mind, especially at the moment!

12 Reread an old book of yours to remind yourself just how good you are/were/could be again.
This is still a good tip, especially if you are despairing of ever writing anything publishable ever again.  Which you will, you will!

In fact, there were 25 tips in all in my original blog, so maybe I’ll just do half of them this time, and save the rest for next month (when I may be having a similar dearth of new ideas!)

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Nick Garlick said...

Good list. Great blog. I've ruined a day or two reading the news too early.

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks Lynne - wise words!

Sue Purkiss said...

Excellent advice!

Penny Dolan said...

Trying not to not watch for news is one of the hardest things: maybe in the strange belief that if you know you can cope with it better. A form of self protection?

Wise words, grown from those collected in a good time and place. Looking forward to next month's collection.

Unknown said...

Thanks to sharing such thoughtful knowledge I like your work, keep it up.

Lynne Benton said...

Very belatedly, I'm afraid, many thanks to you all for your kind comments!