by Jacqueline Ward
I’m writing at the end of the fourth week of the COVID-19 lockdown – this is the longest I haven’t gone out to work, even when I had my children. I have always been a freelance as well as employed which means that I am equipped to work antisocial hours anywhere.
When I became a writer this was a brilliant transferrable skill. The ideas that float around my own writersphere, a place I set aside for creativity, can pop up anytime and two o’clock in the morning has often found me sitting in a hotel lobby typing.
So lockdown has lent itself to an exaggerated version of this. Many people on Twitter have said that their creativity has been drained with the Coronavirus changes, and it’s no wondering that with the landslide of negativity, we are in survival mode. Our sympathetic nervous systems are reacting to fight or flight for, possibly, one of the few times in our lifetimes that it is firing anxiety correctly.
The parasympathetic system is kicking in trying to settle and calm us and we are finding it difficult to focus with our minds and bodies in constant turmoil. Part of this settling exercise for me was a re-evaluation. I am a risk taker and I often push outside my comfort zone. It isn’t always a pleasant exercise and can be excruciating, especially at times like these, when stress overlays each day anyway. But does it have to be that way?
I have been making decisions about what I want to do post-Coronavirus lockdown rather than what I have to do. Writing has grown into something that I did not expect that is sometimes uncomfortable. This period of evaluation is a great opportunity to mould and shape it into something better. Here’s what I’ve done:
Got the advice of experts: I bought Masterclass on a BOGOF offer. Listening to experts’ experience is a great way of learning in any field.
Brainstorm what you really, really want: Do I still love writing, or am I doing it for money or fame? Think back to the beginning. Am I where I thought I would be? Am I happy where I am?
Where does it hurt? Which areas make me feel uncomfortable? Is it because I feel I have to do something, or is it fear of choosing to move out of my comfort zone?
So what have I decided? Well. I still love writing. Phew! Neil Gaiman’s been in bed with me telling me about stories so, you know. And what I really, really want is to walk with my characters through this awful time. For me, storytelling is therapy.
Where does it hurt? This is the interesting one. After a lot of thinking I realised that there are certain conditions I have put on myself that are holding me slightly away from my best creative self – like travel, going to meet-ups, feeling like I have to watch webinars and podcasts – my writersphere is too crowded.
So I am raking through the ‘should and musts’, arranging them in a formation that suits me more and are gentle on my mind. These terrible times will have silver linings which are very hard to see but hopefully I will come out of this a better writer and a better person as well as 10lb heaver with grey roots!
I’ve started a new novel and the stories behind the links in this article will give you some clues as to what it is about, my writing process and where I got the idea from…