Since the virus started up in Europe in February I have hardly written anything. Big life changes like working from home, shopping in tape-demarcated two metre stages, schools closed and distant family now completely inaccessible – not to mention the sheer fear of a new disease ripping through our older population – made writing harder than usual. I have less free time somehow than before, still in full time work but now also full time stay at home parenting. Writing dropped off the agenda – but I still wanted and needed to write *something.*
We are now in the 10th week of the new way of life, with no plans to return to school or office. It seems likely that September will be the next time life might be something like normal. March to September is a long time. So what can we do to maintain a creative life? Here are 5 ideas I’m trying.
1. Re-learn the craft. I just signed up for the Write What You Know course from Writers HQ , and as an extra bonus I could not resist their Writing in a Time of Climate Change course. The exercises and community discussions are just what I need to give me a boost, and lend a little structure to the process.
2. Blog. I don’t use blogging as a form of creative diary (unlike Austin Kleon) but I want to get back to posting regularly. I lost my main writing time when I changed jobs last year but now I’ve scraped together a few minutes here and there to semi-replace it. Blogging is easy on the go with a mobile phone app like the WordPress one I’m using now, and it is a different form of writing to my fiction or poetry. Practice on many fronts!
3. Write tiny. I am a long time champion of extreme short form writing. Microfiction such as the #vss365 daily challenge to composed tweet-length stories, allows me to complete a few pieces a day and engage with a lively online community. All the perks without needing to write a novel.
4. Read fiction. I had a long stretch in 2019 where I only read non fiction but lately I’ve found some fiction series I can enjoy for pure relaxation. This is the escapism I need to let my brain unwind, which is what it needs to generate new ideas. And in the sunniest UK spring on record I can actually sit in the garden to do it.
5. Find a new obsession or three. I used to use a thing called StumbleUpon which showed you random internet content based on some stated personal interests – say, archaeology or city planning. This was in around 1998… Now that all social media has algorithms to automatically curate what you see based on the terrifying amount of stuff they know about you, random is something you have to look after yourself. So I’ve reinforced my old habit of googling weird things I notice in the And Finally news or spot in the background of TV I’m watching. I look up answers to questions I think of when driving. In short I’m retraining my mind to wonder. There’s no particular point to any individual question but it forms a general climate of What If which is helpful in limbering up the mind for creation.
These 5 small efforts have kept my writing going, some public, some private, even when things have been tough. I anticipate an even rougher time ahead in many parts of the world as we slide back down the year towards winter, so I’m going to keep this list close.
It’s helping me. I hope it helps you too.
What’s keeping you going in this weird unpleasant time? Please share your top tips for creative sanity!