Writing During a Pandemic
by C F White
We’re all in it at the moment. The unprecedented pandemic that was thrust upon us from around December last year and has hit almost every country and affected us all in some way or another.
I’m in England. So it hit us badly in March. We went into complete lockdown at the end of March 2020 and are only now slowly coming out of it. What did this mean for me personally and for my writing and creativity? Well, I was sent to work from home when my job is mostly being out and about —I do outreach for a university, working with underrepresented groups and disadvantaged children giving them access to higher education. I love my job, but all of a sudden it was very, very different.
Not only that, I have two children. One who had just started secondary school and one in primary who has complex special needs. Having them both with me twenty-four seven and having to homeschool and work full time, I think it’s safe to say my writing took an absolute nosedive.
I was lucky in the sense that Fade to Blank had been written by that point. It was finished. I’d started on book two when we went into lockdown and I think I was about midway point into it. Then I halted. Not only could I not find the time, but also the motivation to write was severely affected. There was so much going on, so much fear and worry and confusion and anxiety in the entire world that me putting words to a story just didn’t feel right.
I hadn’t made the decision on what to do about Fade to Blank at that point, so I sat on the book for a while especially as I was concerned that I might never be able to finish book two if we never came out of lockdown, if the world didn’t go back to normal. I gave myself a break. I didn’t want to. Believe me, I wanted to keep writing. I wanted to go back to how things were. I wanted my kids to go to school. But that wasn’t going to happen. So I gave myself a talking to and realised this time with my family is precious. I should take the time to appreciate it.
So I did. I tried not to think about the days, weeks, months ticking by and me having not written any new words. I asked other authors if they were struggling. I wondered how others were still able to write. I thought myself a failure many, many times. I read a lot. I binge read a few series I’d been meaning to read. I edited a few older works. My audio books came out during this time too, so that gave me some focus.
But I still hated that I couldn’t seem to get any words down to finish book two.
Then, suddenly, about three months in, I realised that this was my normal. This was life as it was going to be for a long time. I’d been waiting for things to snap back to life as it had been, instead of embracing it as it was. So I opened the laptop. I actually started writing something completely different. A new book. A new genre. The words flowed out of me. I wrote about 10k in a few days. That kickstarted me into a new writing process. I clicked out of that book, back into London Lies #2, and let myself go.
I finished the book recently. It’s all done and dusted. And I feel I’ve got myself back again.
Moral of this story is, don’t fight it. When there’s so much else going on, don’t force the words to come. Don’t wallow in guilt that isn’t your fault. Don’t compare yourself as to why others were seemingly business as usual and you’d halted to grinding stop. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and no one knows what goes on behind closed doors and how others are really coping. Stay away as much as possible from social media. During these times, it can be a blessing to keep in contact with those we can’t see but it’s also a curse by giving out misinformation and sucking the joy out of things. Use with caution I say.
Words will be there when they are ready. It’s all about adjusting to a new way of working. We’re all doing it at the moment. My real-life job, I’m adjusting to not being able to go and talk to those kids who are already disadvantaged from their peers and give them that extra boost – I have to do this online now or in a new, innovative way. Just like my writing. I’m getting used to throwing down words to the background of Peppa Pig or staying up later when my kids are in bed to edit what I wrote when I was mid-way through a maths problem with them.
It’s a crazy world out there at the moment. We need to acknowledge that and not put guilt on ourselves for not producing at the speed we used to. Or even finding it hard to escape into a good book, because our brains can’t switch off as quickly as our kindle can. We’ll get there again. We will. We’ll adjust and soon this will be normal.
And we can write when things feel normal.