I’m stuck, I don’t want to. Is this the end for me as a writer?
So, lockdown has killed my writing groove. What can I do to reignite the spark? If, like me, you’re feeling a bit lacklustre, less than inspired, tired, or frustrated, but you want to keep in the groove of writing without actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keys, what can we do to keep the fire burning? I find if I step back for too long, I lose the urge completely and won’t write for several months – hardly ideal when I’ve chosen to pursue writing as my career. Allowing such a gap, even in these unusual times, could spell the end, the implosion of my goals, and I’m determined not to let that happen.
After a spell of musing, I’ve come up with plenty of activities you and I can get on with to support our writing and authorship without feeling forced. In fact, this is a great time to concentrate on growing your knowledge and expertise of your craft, and to do small things now to get ahead. I’ve put together a list of ideas (feel free to add yours in the comments) that are sure to spark interest, some of which may surprise you. I’m sure there’s something here to keep your passion alive.
Taking a break is important, but stopping completely could be detrimental. It’s possible to take a writing holiday without losing touch by shifting focus for a bit."
A change is as good as a holiday, even if you’re stuck at home.
At this unsettled time, keeping your mind focused on the singular task of writing may be a challenge, but there are plenty of tasks you can apply yourself to that will support you as a writer, and help you get prepared for when you’re ready to tackle the manuscript again.
My (small and gentle) goals during this time are to:
I've really only set goals for this time so I can ensure I do a bit of each. It's totally up to you if you want to work this way.
Here are some ideas to support each goal:
1. Immerse in story…
2. Grow meaningful social media…
3. Learn your craft…
4. Prepare for the future…
These ideas are just the beginning. I’ve caught a few other blog posts out there with more, so hunt them out if you haven’t found something that takes your fancy on mine.
Do take a rest if you need it. We can’t be totally enthralled with what we do all the time, but we can maintain forward motion. Even when we’re feeling lost or completely anti, there are small actions we can take to get through the hard spots. There’s inspiration to be found in the work of others, and through other mediums. Every little step you take now will help you get through and come out the other side in a better position to restart your writing passion.
In the meantime, stay safe, wash your hands, take those little steps.
P.S. Do you have ideas that others might find useful? Please add them to the comments to help your fellow authors through.
First up, I have not been approached by anyone or paid to write this post. I’m singing the praises of Pinterest solely because it’s an essential and brilliant tool in my writing kit, and I want to show you why, so it can make your writing life easier too!
For those of you unfamiliar with this platform, Pinterest is essentially a search engine, but unlike the majority which allow you to bookmark pages, Pinterest has been designed to be the ultimate place to capture exactly what you want off different sites through images and links. It goes beyond that, too, allowing you to create and share your own ‘pins,’ ‘boards,’ or account.
There are numerous different blogs on how to set up an account, and the basics of using Pinterest, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel outlining how to do that here. Instead, I’ll give you my tips and tricks for making Pinterest work for you as an author.
Things to note: a ‘board’ is like a folder (you can have multiple boards on your account. I presently have 38). Within your board you can have ‘sections’ or dividers with different titles related to the subject of your board. A ‘pin’ is the item you’re saving, or tucking into that section that you can come back to later. A pin can be a single image with no link, or it can be a title page that, when clicked on, can lead you a whole blog post or website.
I make Pinterest work for me in several ways:
First: it’s a place to promote myself and my writing. I have boards that illustrate me as a writer and person, my blog and other social media platforms, and my books and stories. These are my marketing boards that help me get my brand across. Many of my pins contain links that take you directly to my website or places you can buy my books.
Second: I use it to learn and help others learn my craft. I have ‘Write!’ boards to inspire others to join the writing way of life. From how to develop a character or plot, to images and prompts for inspiration, I’ve saved hundreds (if not thousands) of excellent tools to help you on your journey as a writer.
Third: I use it to learn and help others learn the business side of being an independent writer. Titled ‘Biz,’ you can find everything here from how to build a website or blog, to different forms of publishing and marketing.
Fourth: it’s a tool for developing and illustrating my stories as storyboards. Each of my stories gets a board, and each board is sectioned depending on what I want to store or show. Common headings here are: characters, setting, and research. I also have character banks (with thousands of entries to help you put a face to your characters), and a ‘research for stories’ board in which I tuck bits and pieces I might need in the future, and could help you out should you need to know about anything from survival skills to period costume, science to crime and combat, and heaps more.
The internet is truly your oyster when it comes to Pinterest, and you tailor your boards to suit you. You can even have public boards (seen by everyone), or private boards (seen only by you), so if you want to save things that aren’t relevant to your writing life, but happen to like sewing or cooking and want to save pins on those topics, you can save them just for you.
Like other social media platforms, you can follow other accounts, or follow a selected one or more of their boards. Likewise, you gain followers – people who see what you’re pinning, and can pin those things too. The key to gaining followers is to pin, pin, pin. Several pins in short bursts throughout the day seems to be the most effective strategy. I’ll pin anywhere from 10 to 50 pins in a day depending on what else I’ve got going on. You can also create your own pins, but everywhere I’ve looked advises to start by pinning from what’s already out there (when you pin someone else’s pin or follow their board or account, they’re notified of that and might pin from you or follow you back!).
World flip! Word from my bubble...
March. What can I say about March, except that the whole world turned upside down in quick succession thanks to that virus that shall not be named! Added to that, the old saying of ‘trouble come in threes.’
We’re living a major world historical event which will likely be taught in schools in decades to come. The way our world leaders have responded to this single event will be talked about in classrooms and lecture theatres, and it’ll be clear who had their S#!+ together, and who used denial, distraction, blatant lies, and in short, f’d it up to the detriment of the entire population they’re responsible for. I am utterly thankful to live under the care of a woman, for one, and beyond that, a human being that has the welfare of the people of her country in the centre of her consciousness. Jacinda Ardern is the best thing that’s happened to our country in decades. Jacinda will also become the focus of lectures, I’m sure, and for many great reasons. Who better to have as a role model, not just for our young women, but everyone!
Who’d have thought going to the supermarket would become a major operation even a month ago? An instant reshuffle of schooling for my kids (now done from home, which is fine for me as an ex-teacher, but will be a whole new challenge for many families), my husband home 24/7 (already carrying enough stress with the discontinuation of Holden in New Zealand, whom he works for), and nobody has any certainty about what lies ahead. Then there’s the quick succession of hospital visits and illnesses between my sisters and I, thankfully nothing related to the current Nasty, but stressful enough, especially given my family usually zoom straight in on the one needing help, but lockdown has prevented our normal rescue missions. We’ve had to do our checking-in via messenger, video calls, and Zoom meetings, strange given we’re all within 5ks of each other. I can tell you from personal experience that Shingles suck! I’m just incredibly thankful that doctoring was able to happen via the phone, and I didn’t have to venture into town, though Mr. L did (to the pharmacy), sanitiser, gloves, and Glen20 in hand. And here’s what I can pass on to you: if you even suspect you’re getting Shingles, don’t muck about thinking it’ll get better on its own, oh no, the sooner you get antiviral drugs into you, the shorter your stint with the blimmin rash!
The positives shine for me, though, these days. A few years back I experienced an extended spell of depression, and through some pretty intense help and change, I discovered how to find and appreciate the good bits, perhaps more than others around me now: as I write, my family are all healthy and safe; we’re fortunate to live in a pretty isolated spot, at least 100m from the nearest house in any direction, and a kilometre from our suburban centre; my kids are coping pretty well with lockdown, and are loving having time outside with their dad (I love that time too!); we have what we need to get through the lockdown, even if it’s extended (fingers crossed it’s not); we have a Prime Minister that truly has our health, safety, and wellbeing at heart; I’m actually enjoying the slowing down of the world (I feel like I can almost keep up at this pace); I’m able to pop off and write for good stretches of time and have found a semblance of routine. In short, we’re good up here on our hill.
My city has made a definite shift into autumn with daylight savings ending. The evenings are dark, the wind is back, and there are more damp, cold days than warm ones. There’s something great that comes of this though: epic sunrises and sets! I’ll be ready with my camera.
Bubble within bubble: my writing room haven...
This geek can’t help but imagine the new dictionary entries that will come of our current situation, the definition of ‘bubble’ will get an update for a start. The use of language in many forms from definitions to hashtags, formal speeches, to sign language, is at the fore at the moment. It’s something worth watching, for me, and it’ll be reflected on in months to come. Fascinating stuff.
I’ve been firmly shoved into re-drafting The Weight of Expectation by the sudden change in circumstances. Strangely, my rather remote setting has featured a couple of times on TV, like a beacon telling me to get my butt in the writing chair! My family have developed a kind of new normal, and I like to disappear and write when the kids and husband are occupied and happy. Learning to work around their constant presence in the house is quite a challenge. Blocking out their noise is possibly the greatest difficulty (music helps, thank god for Spotify). The actual process of is re-write has driven me back to the beginning again – yet another plot attempt, more research, more chapter planning, and strangely, some quite fundamental changes. I’ve needed to simplify my secondary character to make the primary character’s story stronger and clearer. As usually happens in writing this particular story, it stirs past emotions that put me in a weird space. I tell you, this is the most difficult subject matter I’ve ever written because a lot of it is personal, stuff I’ve experienced and would never wish to experience again, only I do, every time I write it. With each rewrite, however, I’m able to put a little more distance between myself and the writing; Cora’s story is not my own, Cora’s headed in a slightly different direction with slightly different experiences. I can do this, I’m sure of it.
This month’s Flash Fiction Friday came to me from a chance encounter with virus-related ideas. On a whim, I decided to draft a quarantine story, and ended up with the rather cheeky Mushy Peas. It absolutely poured from my fingertips and I just had to keep going until it was all out, the last sentences twisting the story right around as I wrote them without knowing where it came from. I love that, a surprise ending that surprises me as I write it! Have a read to see what I mean!
My ‘job’ is a welcome distraction, a haven from the world. It’s the ultimate distraction at the moment. What better to do when you’re unsettled or frightened in the world you live in, than to disappear into worlds you’ve created yourself, worlds you have ultimate control over? I have the opportunity, too, to provide distraction for all of you. I’ve got historical worlds, fantasy ones, and contemporary settings and stories far from the current seemingly apocalyptic reality we’ve landed in. Jump on in and escape for a while. It’ll do both of us some good!
The new normal feels wierd!
The world is constantly changing whether we want it to or not. This is a bigger change than usual, and it’s testing people in ways they never could have imagined. Saw on the Sunday programme last night a psychologist talking about different ways people cope in times like these – those that find it difficult, a grieving process for their old ways of life, others that find it an opportunity to re-evaluate how they live their lives. I’m finding myself the latter, though it’s more an affirmation of the changes I had to make for myself over recent years. The story I’ve been working on mirrors a little of my own life years ago, and it’s reminding me of the changes I had to make to survive, and that the way I’m living at the moment reminds me of that. I needed a quieter life less occupied and dominated by others. I need to be in charge of my world, and I wasn’t.
Going through a period of time where I’m being reminded of the positives that have come of my shitty time and escape from that. Though it’s compulsory, and I could feel annoyed by it, I’m not unhappy to have my husband and kids around all the time. It can be challenging, especially providing every meal every day without end and through illness, but I like the constant, knowing they’re here and not having to worry about them being away from me – this’ll likely throw up challenges at the other end.
I think writing is becoming even more of a haven from what’s going on in the world for me. I won’t lie – I’m enjoying full days without having to hustle to get kids to school, or to stop and pick them up. I resent interruptions, especially obligatory ones, and here I am without any (except taking breaks to feed people)! There’s a gentleness, on calm days with the sun shining, classical music allowing me to float on the surface of good writing time. I feel at peace while the world around me stresses and fears. Can I be the only one feeling this way, or are other writers happy in their bubble, like me?
I do miss my first family – my parents and sisters. I’ve said before that we’re a pretty tight team, and are always there for each other. Being forced to remain apart is the hardest bit. We’ve all been through challenges in the first couple of lockdown weeks that’d usually pull us together, but we’ve been forced to stay apart. I worry for the mental wellbeing of us all, being required to stay apart, and wonder what it’ll be like when we get to reunite. That’s in the future for us, and we’ll find out when we get there. I’ll tell you though; it’s made for some hilarious messenger video chats!
At least I can ramble to you guys to satisfy my rambling needs!
Stay safe everyone, stick to your bubble, and think of how good it’ll be to be free again at the end!
Stay safe in your bubble,
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Hi, I'm Emily,