How to survive writing in isolation


18 March 2020
Finding it hard to write, right now? Be kind to yourself – and have a look at these ten tips for keeping your creativity alive in difficult circumstances

1) Don’t worry if you’re not writing right now

We know lots of you will be stressed and anxious about the current situation. Do what you need to do to keep yourself and the people around you safe, and don’t add to your burden by being anxious about not writing. Your writing is patiently waiting for you to return to it, but it will do just fine without you until you are ready to come back to it.

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2) Keep a journal

Record your thoughts and impressions by hand, in a private diary. Write out your fears and worries and any thoughts that occur to you. Don’t edit yourself, just write in your journal as a way of talking out your concerns. Remember too that these are unique circumstances and the insights you discover as you write may well be useful later on in a writing project.

3) Start a new project

Changing times may suggest changing styles or genres. You may find your mindset has altered in recent days and the writing project that you were working on may not be a fit in the same way. So start something new. Maybe you could record your observations of the changing times. Or be prompted to write in a new style. Flash fiction or poetry might be appropriate ways of recording snapshots of thoughts and impressions while we’re in the middle of a situation and don’t know what the end will be.

4) Write little and often

Perhaps your concentration is shot. No wonder, when we’re trying to keep up with a news stream of developments, our personal worries and the efforts of looking after ourselves and taking care of our loved ones. So find five or ten minutes here and there and write a few lines where you can. It will all add up.

5) Social media is your friend

Keep in touch with fellow members of the writing community through the online networks. Use Twitter and Facebook and Instagram to chat to people. It’s the ideal place for self-isolating writers to share their thoughts and ideas and feel networked to the wider writing world. Many of us may be in lockdown but we can reach out to each other and make sure we’re not alone. Check in with your people. Search out online communities and get involved – remember you can lift up the spirits of someone else in lockdown just by saying hello. Share your ideas, what you’re working on, tell each other how your day’s going. And watch out for daily offerings from Writing Magazine across our various platforms – we’ll be sharing writing exercises, ideas, insights and inspiration from our own home-working offices!

6) Tackle a project you haven’t had time for

With extra time on your hands, take advantage and roll up your sleeves to tackle that passion project that you’ve always promised yourself you’d write ‘one day’. The one you’ve said you’d write ‘when you’ve got time.’ Well, now perhaps you’ve got time. Use it. Make it count.

7) Inspiration everywhere

So you can’t go out? For an hour every day, do something you haven’t done before. Switch off Netflix. Teach yourself to look in a new way. Listen to a new playlist. Get out a pad and draw something. Read a book from your TBR pile, do an online course, look at art, start researching your family history. Go through WM’s Competition Supplement and even if you don’t enter them, select five that take your fancy and have a go at writing pieces specially tailored for them. Meditate. Think of yourself at 16, 21, 35, 57, 73, 94 and write down what you remember of yourself at that age and what you hope you’ll be doing when you get older.

8) Finish something

You know that writing project that you started and didn’t finish? Those short stories that have beginnings but not endings? The poems that petered out after an initial flash of inspiration? The novel that needs redrafting? The synopsis you know you should write? Wouldn’t now be the ideal time to tackle these tasks and give them the attention they need?

If you want a bit of helping getting your synopsis sorted out, read this.

9) Get some exercise and practice self-care

Exercise clears the mind and helps ideas flow. If you can, get out into a green space and walk. If you’re isolating, find an online exercise class, or dance class, and do that. And try to spend a little bit of time each day in a calm space where you can practice mindfulness if you’re into that, reflecting on what you’ve done and processing how you’re feeling.

10) Remember this strange time will end

And when it does there’ll be a new normal. We’ll still need books, articles, poems, stories, ideas – creative people doing creative things that make the world a better place. You can play your part in that. Support each other. Download books, especially from the publishers you’d like to submit to in the future, because right now some of them will be struggling to survive. Encourage your fellow writers. Get your work ready for the readers who will be grateful for it in the future. Believe in the power of your own words. Keep writing, and share the love.

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