I’m not the only one with more time on their hands at the moment, but I’m also not the only one struggling to, well, do anything.
Despite the mounting death toll, a few writerly friends of mine all sighed with relief at the idea of more time to write. Large swathes of people spend most of their time working, and I’ve long been aware of this weird feeling of global fatigue. People are always tired. They’re always working. If it’s their day off, they’re recuperating. On my days off, I’d struggle to do anything remotely mentally or physically taxing. Hobbies are often dismissed if they do not create some kind of income.
It takes a pandemic to give us a break.
For the last few weeks I have been working from home. I don’t particularly have much of an outside life, and so lockdown took a while to start feeling real. In fact, my partner has taken to celebrating the fact that I work from home simply because he gets to spend more time with me, and that’s delightfully sweet. Yet I’m still struggling to focus on my own writing once I have logged off. All I had the energy for was eating dinner and then lying in bed while my partner reads Harry Potter to me.
I’ve found that during the peak moments of energy, I’ve procrastinated by doing anything but writing. I’ve drawn, potted some plants, de-weeded bits of the garden, set up a pen for the guinea pigs, and followed my cats around while narrating them. I spent hours looking for a chapter I’d written (still haven’t found it) instead of writing it again—which I eventually did.
I have the time. I have the time right now, but instead I’m writing this essay. Instead, I’ve been listening to lectures on YouTube and played writing games on Twitter. I know what needs to be written. Heck, I have this story mapped out better than any story I’ve written before it.
Before the lockdown I was asked to write a short story. I did. It was 7,500 words and has been approved. All the excuses that I’ve told myself have fallen flat on their face. Something has gone horribly wrong.
To amend this, as best as I can, I have decided to do things slightly differently, and I’m going to use this lockdown period productively whether I like it or not.
Firstly, I’m going to exercise. This sounds counter-intuitive to me even though I know it isn’t. Your body starts creating more energy when it expects you to start using it, so I’ll do this every day. I have workouts that I’ve done before and I’ll try to continue this long after the lockdown finishes.
Secondly, I’m going to write in ten-minute sprints, to deadlines. Writing in sprints has always been my successful form of writing and for some reason I do not utilise it enough. The story I am currently writing is the novel that I partially wrote for my MA dissertation, so its skeleton is pretty strong.
Thirdly, I’m going to have music time. Without my daily walks to work, I’ve not been listening to music as much. I like music and it helps me with inspiration and motivation to write. I don’t think lack of music and lack of writing aren’t mutually exclusive. This is also important with establishing ‘me time.’ I’m boxed away with my partner, and while I love him, I am an introvert and require space and passivity to collect my spoons. He reads to me, so he has that time, always.
Fourthly—and this is hard to articulate—I’m not going to lose self-esteem. I am terrible for this. My aforementioned MA in Creative Writing was a success. I got a distinction for that dissertation and yet I am still grumbling and feeling small when I consider putting myself out there as a writer. I’m shy of my work. I used to think this wasn’t about publishing, but about telling a story I want to tell, but this lack of self-esteem starts to eat away and the void grows. Now with all this time on my hands, I turn to write and that feeling starts.
I have a story to tell.
True, it may never get out if I write it, but it definitely won’t get out if I don’t.
I have to make myself accountable. I have people in my life that will prod me to write. If you are thinking of trying my method, but don’t have people, make that person you, but yesterday, or you but tomorrow.
I wrote 500 words yesterday, so I only have 300 to write today.
If I don’t write 400 more words, I will have to write 800 to catch up.
It is also valuable to stay connected, and letting people in on my plans for achieving my writing goals is a good way of letting people stay active in my life. It will be a good thing to talk about (along with anything they want to talk about) during a time of pessimism, and no, I don’t want to talk about the news because I can’t live with the stress and anxiety.
I’m going to write 1000 words tomorrow!
That’s optimism, because there is going to be a tomorrow, and I choose to believe that. And if there isn’t, well, I don’t want to leave this story of mine unfinished. While I default to pessimism (or realism, as I usually call it) I have to actively pursue optimism and create this self-fulfilling prophecy. This affirmation ritual will begin.
© 2020 Lannah Marshall
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Sometimes she writes. Sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, she’s not doing what she’s supposed to be doing.