Thursday, April 09, 2020

In Tough Times, Find Your Writing Comfort Zone

By Sherry Howard, @SherLHoward

Part of The Writer's Life Series

JH: Sherry Howard shares thoughts on making it through trying times as a writer.

Sherry Howard lives with her children and silly dogs in Middletown, Kentucky. Sherry is the author of the picture book ROCK AND ROLL WOODS, with a starred Kirkus review. Her poems and stories have appeared in multiple journals and anthologies. She also writes for the educational market, with about a dozen books.

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Take it away Sherry...

Normally, when I write a guest post, I don’t feel like the world could be totally changed by the time the post is published. But, my heart feels heavy today, March 22, as death tolls climb before our eyes. I wonder which of us will not be even more touched or changed over the next few weeks.

I’m from a large and close extended family. A niece with a darling baby girl is a nurse who already feels exposed and afraid. A niece by marriage is a nurse anesthetist who may have to intubate patients with the virus. Another sister is a nurse administrator in a nursing home, which has changed overnight. Another niece with a premature newborn is terrified and we are seeing the growing baby by video. My mother is bereft that she can’t get out, can’t hug her children. She was close to giving up her driving, and this may make that happen. I could go on, and my personal list feels endless.

I know that each of you have a similar list of family or friends, and growing problems of your own. My warmest thoughts go out to all of you. We have to lean on each other.

How do we talk about writing during times like this? When some days we can’t summon the energy to care. When it seems like the world must surely be revolving backwards.

Writing for most writers is so much a part of who they are, whether they’re published or not, that life without writing doesn’t exist. 

If you can’t concentrate to write, your brain still works like a writer. You analyze this new world like a writer. You know that some day what you are seeing and hearing will inform your work as a writer.

So, find your comfort zone, whatever that is. 

My comfort zone right now is complete lack of structure. I’m taking it all in, internally writing my own version of cause and effect in our world. I write poetry because I’m half broody Irish. I’m trying to support other writers. And, I also write for real. The big difference is that I don’t impose the usual requirements on myself. I do what I can when I can and never “yell” at myself if that happens to be nothing sometimes.

Your comfort zone might be way more structured, but I’d be willing to wager that the vast majority of us are having a hard time concentrating, having a hard time producing, and having an easier time binge-watching Schitt’s Creek on Netflix. (Do watch it!)

So many children’s authors are suffering a huge loss of income. Here are the facts. Only the top children’s authors make a living from writing. Advances and royalties aren’t that great. Many get a large portion of their income from school visits. I can tell you from personal experience that those visits are exhausting but exhilarating. Of course, that market is gone for now. Yet, many of those same authors are donating time, activities, and read-alouds free to help teachers, parents, and kids. If you see a way to support a children’s author, any author, please do. Buy their book through the indie book stores that desperately need your business when you can.

If you’re a writer who needs inspiration right now, get on social media and study the resources that other authors are posting. Study all of the live interviews on CNN and you’ll have a wealth of character studies for future writing—villains and heroes both abound. Need moral support, get back on social media—it’s there.

On Twitter I call myself a poet and a philosopher. (It was lovely that no one made me prove that!) So, here’s a little poem of hope that I’ll leave you with today. 

Wish I could distribute hugs as freely as poems because everybody would get a good, Kentucky hug!

About Rock and Roll Woods

Kuda is a bit of a grump who doesn't like change. So when he wakes up to find new neighbors and loud, strange noises in his woods, he is not happy. Will his desire to be with his friends overcome his objections to loud sounds? And might Kuda's courage help him discover that new things and rock and roll music can be pretty great? Featuring helpful backmatter about Sensory Integration and insider jokes for parents with autistic kids.

Amazon Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound |


  1. Thanks for your candidness. I will try not to get on myself for not writing and having trouble concentrating. Nice poem.

    1. Thanks, MH! Hope you can be kind to yourself!

  2. How can I make my words flow and sound good? My voice is simply awful but my plot charchters and everything else is really good my voice is just holding me back

    1. Aiden, everybody has strengths and weaknesses. If you can just get words on the page and then edit, edit, edit! Most of us have more edits than people realize before a manuscript is ever published.