Writing in the Time of Coronavirus: 10 Tips
I know I’m not the only one out there who feels the impossibility of putting pen to paper (or typing letters on a screen) these days. COVID-19 has upended our lives in so many ways, often stifling the spark of creativity we work so hard to hold onto. Between work and virtual school and watching the news and trying to maintain some sort of balance...who has time for writing?
But it’s up to us—the writers—to keep writing. Even if its just a few words each day, we need to fan the flame of our work so it doesn’t go out. When you’re feeling blocked or overwhelmed or just uninspired, here are 10 ways to work on your craft.
1. Keep a Journal
Journaling comes in many forms. You can adapt a persona for your journal (like a Sherlockian detective trying to uncover the impetus behind your daily ups and downs). You can keep a dream journal and record the fantastical imaginings of your subconscious. Maybe you don’t want to relive each day during our “new normal” but instead want to reimagine the day without COVID, free of the stress of a pandemic. No matter how you journal, it’s a great exercise in both narrative nonfiction and stream of consciousness writing.
2. Use Prompts
Sounds a bit juvenile, perhaps, but writing prompts work, especially when you don’t have a project underway. Check out “The Time Is Now” from Poets & Writers, which offers weekly writing prompts and ideas.
3. Write Outside Reality
Many of us write what we know: contemporary or realistic fiction (or even memoirs and autobiographies). With the real world being a bit of a mess, step beyond your comfort zone and try a new genre. Fast-forward to the future with science fiction, escape into fantasy, or explore unique moments of the past with a historical novel. Taking a break from the here and now can free you up to let the good times roll.
4. Set Small Goals
This pandemic is exhausting—mentally, physically, and spiritually. It’s easy to feel too tired to sit down and write, to want to turn off your brain or engage in a more passive form of entertainment. And you should. But you should also give yourself small, manageable goals for your work. Maybe it’s 500 words a day. Maybe it’s 1,000 words a week. Goal setting—and achieving—gives you something to work toward and something to celebrate. As writers, we need both the motivation to keep going and the sense of accomplishment for the work we’ve finished.
5. Try Writing Poetry
Fewer words? Check. Fast and loose grammatical and structural rules? Check. Poetry can be an incredible outlet for blocked writers, now more than ever. Poems represent a snapshot of an emotion, an experience, or a moment in time. It may feel too difficult to write an entire novel right now, but you can encapsulate mini stories full of feeling with poems.
6. Take the Pressure off Productivity
Yes, I did just tell you to set goals for tip #4. But sometimes, goals don’t have to be word counts or page counts. Sometimes you’re brainstorming or researching or finding the perfect word or name for your story. That counts as writing. I’ll say it again for the people in the back—THAT COUNTS AS WRITING. On the days where you just can’t make your writing flow, take a step back and see how else you can engage with your story. You could work on an outline, a synopsis, a mood board—whatever fuels your fire. The need to produce words can sometimes hold us back from experiencing the bigger picture of the creative process.
7. Look at an Old Project
There’s nothing quite like dusting off an old manuscript and seeing if it’s stood the test of time. Find a project from your past self—even if it’s a collection or poems or even an old college essay—and read it with fresh eyes. You may be embarrassed by your older work, but that just means you’ve come a long way in your craft. You may be impressed by some of your skills, and that pride can take you forth in your new work. Either way, you’ll get a little time capsule of your past self that will push your present self forward.
8. Invest in Your Craft
If you have the time and the means, now is a perfect time to attend a virtual conference, sign up for a writing workshop, or join a writing society. For ideas, check out the sidebar.
9. Connect with Others
The writing community feels your pain. We’re here, and we’re online talking (verbosely, I might add) about our feelings. Misery loves company, but so does inspiration. Across social media and various chat groups, writers are connecting to talk about the challenges they face and the successes they’ve had during COVID-19. Join in, even if it’s just to listen, and bask in the knowledge that you are not alone.
10. Write What Brings You Joy
Yes, I’m aware I sound like Marie Kondo right now. But we need more joy in our lives. Write what makes you laugh or smile or rub your hands together with evil glee. This might mean jumping around to non-chronological scenes in your book. It might mean working on three projects at once. It might mean starting something new that’s just intended for your eyes. But joy, my friends, will carry us through. So write what makes you happiest.
* * * * *
Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She loves reading and writing but not arithmetic. Follow her on Twitter at @LillianJaine or on her blog at www.editorsays.com.