When this is over: How to prepare for the next stage of your writing life


28 April 2020
With an easing of lockdown restrictions on the horizon, consider how this will affect your writing

Although we aren’t out of Phase One yet, there’s hope that even though it may be some way ahead, it might be on the horizon – and for writers, any possible loosening of the current restrictions will have an effect on their writing practice. Nothing stays the same forever, in life as in art, so perhaps now is a good time to take stock of where you are and how you want to move into whatever the next phase may be.

What are you looking forward to?

Think carefully about this. In life, we may be hoping, not to achieve grand ambitions, but to be able to see loved ones, get together with friends and family, go for an afternoon out, perhaps sit in a café or bar and watch the world go by. In your writing, it may be that you’re hoping to be reunited with an old friend too – a manuscript that got put to one side because your frazzled brain, in crisis mode, wasn’t in the right mind to tackle it, or a redrafting that demanded more single-minded concentration than you’ve been able to muster in lockdown. Just like the friends you’re longing to see again, these projects are waiting for you to return to them, and pick up where you left off – though inevitably, with insights gleaned from your life in lockdown that may give you a fresh way of seeing the work you put to one side.

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What thoughts and words have you produced in lockdown?

You may well find that during lockdown you’ve been writing different things from usual – this is inevitable, as creative minds respond to changed conditions. You may have jotted down notes and phrases, or channelled the wired energy of lockdown to power through something. You might have started something new, or found yourself writing in a new style, or not have been able to write at all. You might have been reading, or not reading. All of these are equally valid creative responses. In each case though, your experience of this time will have awakened some form of new creative growth. Don’t worry if you can’t see the seeds growing just yet – they will, and you have to trust the process.

What have you discovered about yourself that you didn’t know before this time?

Whatever it is, use it in your writing. Our life experience and our creative work are not separate. Whatever happens to us in life can be used, in some way, to add flavour to our work. That doesn’t mean to say that we’re all going to write pandemic novels – though some might. Other people may draw on their experience of coping on a daily basis, of understanding something about the way they respond in extreme circumstances, of having the time to look at nature unfolding, of the constant underlying hum of anxiety, of the days where getting out of bed and getting dressed felt like an achievement. Some may have discovered living in isolation suits them – and has given them something fresh to discover in their writing.

Have you kept a diary?

We’re living through a moment of history – an extraordinary time. These lockdown days, at once enervating yet for many filled with tedium, are unlike anything most of us have experienced. Later on, remembering the precise details of the texture of this time will be important. What seems humdrum now will be recalled as extraordinary – what it felt like stepping away from other walkers to maintain a two-metre distance, the sensation of breathing through a mask, the frustration of trying to get a delivery slot.

Has anything extraordinary happened to you in this time?

For some, tragically, this will have been a time of profound loss and sorrow, or economic uncertainty. For others, it has been a time where people may have discovered new ways of working, found themselves keeping in touch more with people who really matter to them, reconnected with old friends, taken part in online communities, and discovered things about themselves that have altered the way they see the world. All of this is worth writing about, even if at the moment you’re too busy processing the changes to find the words to describe it just yet.

Going forward, would you like to achieve with your writing?

It may be that as more certainty appears about our collective future, we start to look forward to progressing our writing too. Perhaps it’s as simple as hoping the muse will return. (It will. That’s a promise. Just give it the time it needs). Perhaps there’s a course you might like to sign up for, or a manuscript that needs to be completed, or agents and publishers you’d like to approach. You may have been productive through lockdown and start thinking about submitting work that’s been produced. You may find yourself picking up an old project, or starting something new. Whatever it is, at Writing Magazine we’ll do our best to help you.

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